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Title: The Raven And The Nightingale Book I: Jeweled Nightingale (21-26/26)
Author: bradygirl_12
Pairings/Characters: Bruce/Dick, Alfred Pennyworth, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Ollie/Dinah, Steve/Diana, Queen Hippolyta, Various Historical Figures And OCs
Continuity: DC Comics/Marvel Comics (The Avengers (2012)
Genres: Angst, AU, Drama, Historical, Holiday, Mystery, Romance
Beta: The Sparkling silvertales! :)
Artist: The Amazing ctbn60! :) Link to fanworks: Here
Artist: The Fantastic veinards! :) Link to fanworks: TBA
Rating : NC-17
Warnings: (Ch. 8, Anti-Semitism), (Ch. 8, 13: Racism, racist language (ethnic slurs)), (Ch. 13, 14, 17: Violence) (Ch. 17, 19 & 25: Use of the word Gypsy) (Ch. 20: Allusion to sexual assault) (Ch. 25: Memories of death by burning)
Spoilers: None
Summary: In Edwardian Europe, young American millionaire Bruce Wayne becomes enamored of a beautiful and brilliant ballet dancer, Dick Grayson, who falls for his charming suitor, but Dick’s mysterious past threatens to tear them apart.
LJ Dates Of Completion: October 11--June 23, 2014
A03/LJ Dates Of Posting: October 24, 2014/October 27, 2014
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
LJ Word Count: 45,852
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for the 2014 dcu_bang.
All chapters can be found here.

 photo Greece_zps4505590c.jpg


LJ


Chapters 1-4


Chapters 5-9


Chapters 10-14


Chapters 15-17


Chapters 18-20


Chapters 21-26



A03





Part Four

Summer’s Light

XXI

‘QUOTH THE RAVEN’

June 1, 1907


The birth
Of a new dawn
Is always
Glorious.


Sir Malcolm Attwood
“Days Of The Raj In India,
1861-1867”
1872 C.E.



The Mediterranean light was the stuff of artists’ dreams: a bright, pure quality that was best observed in the Greek Islands.

The Ballet Magnifique sailed on the Diamond Princess, a ship bound for Athens where they had an engagement. They would dance in the city and in a special performance at the Acropolis.

Ollie and Dinah had disembarked at Rome, and would rejoin them at the end of the month in Athens. The shipboard life suited Bruce.

He relaxed on a lounge chair, dressed in white pants and blue blazer with the Wayne family crest emblazoned on the fine fabric. A yachting cap shaded his eyes as he gazed at the sparkling water.

Dick walked gracefully down the deck and slipped into the empty chair next to Bruce. He wore a similar outfit, except his pants were green, his blazer red, and the scarf he had tossed around his neck was canary-yellow. His hair fluttered in the wind as he wore no hat.

“You’re looking very languorous,” Bruce commented.

“I hope so.”

Bruce could see lines of tension around Dick’s mouth. It had been two weeks since the fiasco in the Gardens of Versailles. Since then there had been no further blackmail demands, but of course that meant nothing. However, so far Dick’s secret had not been revealed. It was frustrating not to know when the hammer would be dropped.

They had discreetly inquired around Paris in an effort to find out anything, but they had no clues, at least not at first. Even when he and Dick had gone to the Left Bank during the evenings and trolled the clubs, they had picked up no information on blackmailers, until…

“Do you think that I’ll be famous now that Picasso’s painted me?” Dick asked.

“Maybe, though nobody will recognize you. Not with Picasso’s style.”

Dick laughed. “You’re right. Unless people think I look like a cube, I should be all right.”

“Don’t worry, all will be well. No more strife. ‘Quoth the Raven, nevermore!’”

“What a frightening bird.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Bruce asked thoughtfully.

“I prefer the nightingale, as in the glittery one you gave me.”

“It is better suited to you.” Bruce thought of the journey through Paris’ nightclubs as American millionaire and his Bohemian companion. No one had guessed…

Maybe the blackmailer was scared off. He’s unlikely to follow us to Athens.

He hoped for the best.

& & & & & &


It was the usual chaos at the theater in Athens. The stagehands were busy setting up and the dancers were stretching in a small room set aside for the purpose. Dick finished his exercises and walked backstage with a towel around his neck. He met Clint, who wiped his brow with a hanky.

“Man, set-up never gets easier,” he said. “Glad Haclav’s back."

“Was he ill?”

“His brother was. He took off for a few days in Paris but luckily his brother wasn’t sick long. One guy gone makes all the difference.”

“I bet,” Dick said sympathetically.

“Well, gotta get back to it.” Clint stuffed the hanky in his back pocket.

“I won’t be in your way on-stage, will I? I want to rehearse some moves.”

“Nah, go ahead.”

Dick went out on the boards, feeling right at home. All he needed was a spotlight. Smiling, he threw the towel into the first row of seats and began his routine.

As he danced, he remembered the nights that he and Bruce had prowled the nightclubs of Paris in pursuit of his blackmailer…

& & & & & &


Smoke wreathed the heads of the denizens of The Copper Pot as the flutist and mandolin player entertained the crowd.

Dick smirked as he followed Bruce to a corner table. Bruce was garbed in a dark cloak and expensive suit of navy blue with gray vest shot through with silver. Dick was dressed in a more Bohemian fashion in a wine-red suit and matching cloak with a yellow vest and gold threads. Both carried walking sticks, Bruce with a silver wolf’s head, Dick’s a gold eagle. Both wore formal white gloves.

When they settled at the table, a waiter came over and took their orders for wine. The gentlemen at the next table were too upper class to be the contacts they sought. Bruce’s eyes roamed the crowd and he settled on a stubbled man in shabby clothes, nursing a wine of his own.

Bruce leaned over and addressed one of the gentlemen. “Who is that man over there?”

The gentleman looked and sniffed. “A most unsavory character, Monsieur. The kind no gentleman would associate with.”

“Thank you.”


& & & & & &


Dick went through a series of leaps on-stage, feeling the power of his body. His lips curved into a secret smile. He and Bruce had enjoyed the power of their bodies in a different way last night.

As he swirled and dipped, his mind went back to Paris and later in the evening after prowling the nightclubs…

& & & & & &


The moon was only a sliver in the sky as two figures glided along the alleys in the shadows. They were as one with the darkness, the taller man in a black suit, vest and cape, and a black domino mask covering half his face. He carried a cane with a silver raven’s head and wore black gloves.

The shorter man was dressed in a dark-red vest and green suit, his green cape lined with startling yellow, the color of his silk cravat. He carried a cane with a golden nightingale’s head and wore a green domino mask. His gloves were green.

The man they sought exited a club across the street and staggered slightly across the cobblestones. He was the stubbled man in shabby clothes, his broad face wary as he passed the alley where the two costumed men waited.

He cried out as the taller man grabbed him and pulled him into the alley. {What’s going on?”}

{”We want to know who are currently practicing the vile art of blackmail,”} spoke the taller shadow.

{”Bah, how would I know?”}

{”Don’t be modest, Monsieur,”} said the smaller shadow. {“You are a knowledgeable man.”}

{”Bah,”} he said again. {”I know nothing, nothing, I say!”}

{”You know enough.”} The taller shadow’s voice was low and menacing. {”Tell us who has been blackmailing his betters!”}

{”Anyone in mind?”} came the sardonic retort.

{”Someone in the entertainment field,”} the smaller shadow said coolly.

{”Oh, that narrows it down.”} Despite his fear, the man’s voice dripped sarcasm.

{”You are being combative, Monsieur Batitte.” Batitte froze as his name was used. {”You must be more cooperative.}

Batitte spat on the ground. {“Why should I?”}

{”Because it would be in your best interests to do so.”}

Before Batitte could scoff the taller shadow smashed his cane against the alley wall, the silver head sparking in the dim light of the street lamp. A low growl made the hairs stand up on the back of Batitte’s neck.

{”All right, all right! On Rue Bardot, Number 12, you will find a weasel by the name of Bouchet. Now leave me alone!”}

A whisper tickled his ear. {”’Quoth the Raven, nevermore!’!”}

The scruffy man ran out of the alley as fast as his legs could carry him.


& & & & & &


Dick finished his routine and rested at center stage, idly gazing out at the audience seats. He felt good, his body in the peak of condition. He would be ready for tonight’s performance…

He heard a loud snap overhead and Clint yelled from the wings, “Dive to your right!”

Dick obeyed, diving out of the way just in time as a huge burlap sack smashed down onto the stage, its seams bursting and sawdust splattering all over the wood.


XXII

GREEK PERFECTION


Marble beauty
Smooth and clean,
Greek perfection
Strong and lean.

Sturdy thighs,
Curving lips,
Rounded buttocks
Graceful hips.

All together,
Passion bright,
All together,
Passion night.


Sir Mallory Knightwick
“Greek Passion”
1863 C.E.



“Someone tried to kill you!”

Bruce’s face was white with fear as he stared at Dick, who felt a little shaky. It had been a close call.

“It was just an accident, Bruce.” Dick tried to soothe his distraught lover but Bruce would have none of it.

Clint and Natasha looked shaken, too. Clint clapped a hand on Bruce’s shoulder. “We’ve checked the catwalk but found nothing to indicate who it might have been.”

Bruce bent down and picked up the rope that encircled the remains of the burlap bag. “It’s been cut.”

Dick felt sick as he looked at the neat cut.

“Who would want to kill Dick?” Clint demanded.

“I don’t know,” Bruce said grimly. “Unless…”

“Yes?” Natasha asked intently.

“What about the blackmailer?”

Clint frowned. “Why kill the golden goose?”

“Payback for the trick was pulled on him at Versailles.”

“Possibly,” Natasha said slowly. “But we need more evidence.”

“No one was up there,” Clint said.

“So they say, but somebody had to cut that rope,” Bruce said stubbornly. “We should call the police.”

“The Athens police won’t be of much use.”

“Maybe, but we should report it and get it as a matter of record.”

“I suppose,” Natasha said grudgingly. “But we must figure out who tried to kill Dick.”

Dick raised his hand. “Does the intended victim get a vote?”

“What?” Bruce’s tone was impatient.

“I think a matter of record is good. As for who tried to squash me like a wheatcake, you’ll be our best investigator, Clint. A stagehand had to be the one to cut the rope, or someone who dressed like one.”

“True.” Clint crossed his arms. “I’ll nose around.”

“Be careful.” Natasha thumped him on the shoulder.

“Always, tovarish.

She smiled and nodded firmly.

The group broke up as the police were sent for, and Bruce went with Dick to his dressing room. As soon as he closed the door behind them, Bruce grabbed Dick and pulled him close.

“I couldn’t believe it when I walked into the theater and was told you had nearly been killed!”

“It’s all right; I’m fine," Dick said, but he held on tightly as Bruce stroked his hair.

“I can’t lose you.”

“You won’t.” Dick tightened his hold a little more. “Not ever.”

& & & & & &


The police made note of the incident and asked questions, but the inspector seemed almost disinterested. Bruce was irritated but he had more confidence in his inner circle than the corrupt Athens police.

The catwalk above the stage was closely watched. Most of the company thought it was merely an accident, figuring that the police had questioned them as a matter of form. Bruce was content to let everyone go on thinking that. He preferred to watch the others without them being aware of it. His millionaire persona was perfect for putting people at ease, and he was able to move among them without suspicion.

What worried him was why Dick had been targeted. Why would anyone want to kill him? Was it the blackmailer out for revenge? But as Clint had said, why kill the golden goose? Killing the man who had a secret that he would pay to keep quiet made no sense.

Whatever the reason, we have to find out before he tries again.

He thought of their attempt back in Paris to find the blackmailer…

& & & & & &


{”Monsieur Bouchet?”}

Armand Bouchet flinched as the voice in the shadows startled him. He was in his study and looked around. {”Who’s there?”} he asked sharply. {”Show yourself!”}

{”Blackmail is a nasty business.”}

{”Who is blackmailing anyone?”}

{”You,Monsieur.”}

{”Nonsense!”} Bouchet looked at the northeast corner of the room. {”What are you here for?”}

{”To let you know that you cannot get away with your perfidious criminality.”}

Bouchet snorted. {”University-level words, Monsieur, but they will get you nothing.”}

{”Who have you been blackmailing?”}

Bouchet tensed. He was a small man, dressed in an expensive smoking jacket, but he would never be considered a gentleman. He did resemble a weasel, as Battite had said, furtive and beady-eyed.

{”I blackmail no one, sir!”}

{”What person in the theater are you blackmailing?”} demanded another voice.

Bouchet whipped his head around. {“Who is there?”}

{”The name, Monsieur, the name.”}

Bouchet started to rise from his chair and a gold-headed cane came down painfully on his shoulder.

{”Just tell us the name,”} growled the other voice.


& & & & & &


Unfortunately, Dick’s name was none of those given by a terrified Bouchet after a little more ‘persuasion’.

Still, it had been a good exercise for them. Donning the disguises had been exciting. Even better, it had felt right, a way to get the rage that simmered at the edges of his consciousness safely out.

I’ve battled that rage all my life. I’ve subsumed it in drink and meaningless sex. Until I saw Dick, my life was careening out of control like a runaway four-in-hand. It’s one of the many reasons that I have to keep Dick safe!

He knew that sounded selfish but did not care. Love was also selfish, and he was perfectly okay with that.

I’ll protect him with everything I have.

Bruce felt calm. When he made a vow, he kept it. This was not some empty promise he made during a silly outing or some other frippery. Vows were not meant to be broken.

& & & & & &


Bruce and Dick went out to see the sights of Athens. They saw the beautifully-classical Academy of Athens, University of Athens, and the National Library. Greece’s ancient traditions of learning continued even in the early 20th century.

Bruce kept his eye out for anyone suspicious, keeping Dick close. He had given up trying to be inconspicuous. Dick was wearing full Zouave-style regalia, bright red pantaloons and the blue jacket edged in gold.

“Looks, there’s an art exhibit at the Academy,” Dick said, pointing to a sandwich board advertising a show. “Sculpture.”

“Very well, let’s go.”

They entered the Academy, an institution of higher learning but also a place to showcase ancient Greek treasures. The foyer was cool, all polished parquet floor and white marble pillars. A grand staircase stretched up before them as a crystal chandelier sparkled above their heads. Marble busts were set in the small alcoves, and a sign directed them upstairs to see the exhibit.

Bruce was impressed by the quality of the sculptures. The Ancient Greeks were extremely skillful in the art, and their favorite subjects were beautiful young men.

Bruce studied the statue of a young man, eminently graceful and, of course, nude. His face was calm, even serene, and incredibly beautiful.

This sculptor either was in love with his subject or simply appreciated great beauty. He looked at Dick, who was gazing at the statue with admiration.

“You would have been a most satisfactory subject,” Bruce said softly.

Dick smiled as he continued to gaze at the statue. “Perhaps so.” He walked around the statue. “Fine work.” He was looking at the back of the sculpture.

“No doubt,” Bruce said dryly. He took out his camera and joined Dick. “Yes, very fine indeed.”

“Cheeky, eh?”

Bruce rolled his eyes as he saw Dick’s impish grin and sparkling eyes. “Extremely.”

Dick’s grin grew wider as Bruce snapped a picture. He walked to the next statue, deliberately giving Bruce a fine view. Bruce followed and grabbed Dick’s arm, pulling him into a dark, cool alcove.

“Tease.”

“And you love it.”

Bruce pressed up against his lover and kissed him. Dick kissed back, twining one leg around Bruce. Their kisses grew more passionate and Dick stifled a moan as the click of boots sounded on the hardwood floor.

“No one can see us,” Bruce whispered.

“Good, because I need a little attention here,” Dick gasped.

Bruce smirked and dropped to his knees. He quickly unfastened the Zouave pants and exposed the ready cock of his companion. He knew that he had little time to tease and took the glorious cock into his mouth, keeping a firm grip on Dick’s thighs. He sucked quickly, and Dick was so close to the edge and excited by the element of danger that it took little time at all for him to come. Bruce happily swallowed his seed, licking his lips as he looked up at Dick with shining eyes.

Dick slumped against the alcove wall, limp in Bruce’s strong grasp. “You are the best,” he panted.

Bruce preened, then took out his handkerchief and helped Dick clean up and pull himself together.

“What about you?” Dick asked.

“I’ll collect later,” Bruce assured him with a wicked smile.

“Have you been taking sassy lessons from me?”

“Maybe.” Bruce ran his thumb along Dick’s jaw. “You’ve taught me quite a bit.”

Dick blushed but smiled. “Good. You’re a fast learner.”

Bruce smirked as they emerged from the alcove.

They continued through the exhibit. A collection of vases and urns were set in one glass case. Dick’s eyes widened as he looked at one vase in the back.

“How did this get past the censors?”

“Maybe modern Greeks aren’t as prudish as Europeans.”

The vase in question depicted two young Greek males, one on all fours and the other taking him from behind while gripping his hips.

“Someone has a wicked sense of humor,” Dick smirked.

“And a lot of good fortune. The curator is lucky no one has complained.”

They reached the end of the exhibit and once they emerged into the bright Mediterranean sunlight, headed back to the hotel in Syntagma Square. It had originally been built as a private home by Greek businessman Antonis Dimitrou in the 1840s.

“Ah, all the comforts of home. All 90 rooms of it,” Dick said with a sweep of his arm.

“Good thing for us Mr. Dimitrou had to sell and his home was converted into a hotel in the 1870s. Very elegant.”

Dick had to agree with all the marble pillars, red velvet drapes and blazing chandeliers. Ferns and potted palms were placed flanking the entrances to the dining room and library, and a large palm fluttered gently on the landing.

Up in Bruce’s suite, he collected his turn. He lay back blissfully as Dick slowly and surely sucked him off to a glorious climax.

Tomorrow they would visit the Parthenon, Athens’ jewel.


XXIII

GLEAMS THE TEMPLE


Athena’s temple
Graces the hilltop,
A beacon of love
And worship.

So why should not I
Love and worship
You,
My Beloved?


Sir Robert Standish
“Love Poems
Amongst The Greek Ruins”
1861 C.E.



Ancient Greece lived and breathed in these magnificent ruins. Part of the Parthenon still stood while other parts crumbled to dust. Broken pieces of pillar lay scattered around while almost-intact pillars created a cool, shadowed interior.

Outside of the Parthenon the sun was almost too bright to bear. Dick and Bruce walked through the temple hand-in-hand. Bruce pointed up at a crumbling area of the frieze.

“That’s from where Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin, took the marbles in 1806 and then brought them to England. He sold them to the British Museum in 1816.”

“Thomas Bruce? Any relation?”

Bruce thought for a minute. “I don’t think so.”

“Pity we aren’t scheduled for England any time soon.”

“Yes, England has a lot of sights worth seeing.”

“I hear that Ireland is a green jewel.” Dick’s eyes sparkled.

“It’s certainly beautiful.” Bruce’s smile suggested that he thought Dick was beautiful, too.

“You’ve been to both countries?”

“I have. I’d love to show them to you someday.”

Dick smiled as he danced over to get a closer look at the frieze. “This is going to be a magnificent place to present our special performance.”

“I agree.” Bruce looked around the ruins. “It’ll certainly set an atmosphere.”

“I can’t wait.” Dick took a sketchbook out of his jacket pocket. “I’ve got to give my opinions on the set. Our set designer will come out but as star of the company, I have some input.”

“Naturally.”

Dick smirked but began a quick sketch of the amphitheater. He was intent on his task and failed to notice a broken piece of marble in his path, starting to fall over it. Bruce caught his arm and saved him from a nasty fall.

“Thank you!” Dick’s smile was a little shaky. “Seems like for someone with perfect balance, I’ve been having a lot of accidents lately.”

“This was an accident.” Bruce helped Dick to straighten up. “The sandbag wasn’t.”

Dick sighed. “I’ve never had a problem with anyone, well, after I became a dancer.”

Bruce could only guess at the trouble that Dick had encountered as a Roma. He said gently, “An avatar of the sun like you? I have no doubt that you have more admirers than enemies.”

“I hope so,” Dick said cheerfully. “I’m a very loveable guy.”

Bruce kissed him and patted his buttocks. “I’ll agree with that.”

As Dick went back to his sketching, Bruce thought how much his lover fit into the Parthenon. He truly would have been the toast of Athens.

The face that launched a thousand ships…

Bruce smiled and took out his Kodak Brownie camera. Time for some pictures.

& & & & & &


Bruce greeted Dinah and Ollie with a smile. “Great to see you. How are you? How was Rome?”

“Magnificent. And so was Tuscany,” Dinah answered. “How about you? Soaking up the Mediterranean sun?"

“Um, a little more.” Bruce indicated the chairs in the sitting room of his suite. “Alfred, please call room service for coffee and pastries.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What happened?” Dinah demanded.

“Someone tried to kill Dick.”

Shock froze the Queens. Dinah finally found her voice. “Tell us everything, Bruce.”

He told them the story and Ollie asked, “What did the Athens police come up with?”

“Nothing. They seemed very uninterested in the whole affair.” Bruce waved a hand.
“That’s okay. We’ll take care of this ourselves.”

Dinah crossed her arms. “You seem pretty confident.”

“I am.”

“Why would someone want to kill Dick?” asked Ollie. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

The coffee and pastries arrived, Alfred giving the kitchen boy a generous tip. He served the coffee, returning to his bedroom.

“Where is Dick?” Ollie asked.

“At rehearsal.”

“Is he rattled?” Dinah asked.

“He was, but you know him. Under all that glitter, he’s tough, maybe the toughest of us all.”

Dinah’s taffeta gown crackled as she leaned forward. “We have to protect him.”

“We will.” Bruce’s voice was grim.

& & & & & &


The rehearsal went well back at the theater. Dick consulted with the set designer, Addison Halliwell, a middle-aged Englishman with thinning hair and a pencil mustache. Brown eyes studied Dick’s sketches.

“Yes, these we can build.” Addison tapped the paper. “They’ll fit right into the décor of the Parthenon.”

“Good.”

Addison glanced up at the catwalk. “Is Barton up there?”

“Whenever we rehearse.”

Addison looked at Dick. “You be careful, lad. We don’t need to lose our star.”

Dick’s smile dazzled. “Thanks, Addison. I appreciate your concern.”

Addison huffed. “Merely trying to make sure we don’t lose our star.”

“Right.” Dick’s smile was knowing as he stood and went to his dressing room. He was surprised to see a white vase of blood-red roses and a yellow envelope propped up against the vase.

He sniffed the roses. Their scent was sweet.

Looks like I’ve got another admirer.

Dick opened the envelope and his blood froze.

& & & & & &


You thought that you could trick me. That will cost you.

Bring $10,000 to the island of Lesbos on Friday at 3:00 and leave it at the base of the statue of Sappho at the Eresos Shrine. Trick me again, and you’ll get more than a sandbag next time.


& & & & & &


“So the blackmailer did try to kill you!” Dinah said.

They were all in Bruce’s suite as Dick sat on the edge of his lover's chair. His arms were crossed and his leg swung back-and-forth as his friends were gathered in comfortable chairs.

“Seems shortsighted to me,” grumbled Clint.

“He does seem to be contradicting himself,” Natasha agreed.

“Whatever the case, he has struck again.” Bruce steepled his fingers. “And we must be ready for him.”

Dinah leaned forward. “You should hire a guide to explore the Greek Islands and learn about the currents and other useful things before the drop on Friday.”

“Excellent idea, Dinah.”

She rubbed her throat, a habit that she had adopted lately. “Don’t worry, Dick, we’ll nail this blackguard.”

“I certainly hope so.” He patted Bruce’s knee. “Good thing I have a rich boyfriend to lend me the money.”

Everyone laughed as Bruce shook his head. He closed his hand over Dick’s.

“Time to prepare, my friends.”


XXIV

PRINCESS OF THE SEAS


The Queen lifts her sword,
Golden in the sun
And the battle cry goes forth
And the victory is won.


Sarah Jean O’Reilly
“The Glory Of The Amazons”
1906 C.E.



Bruce and Dick stood on the dock next to their rented yacht. They were waiting for their guide. Dick turned to look down the pier. “There she is.”

A woman was striding toward them, her dark hair billowing out behind her in the wind. She wore a simple white chiton, the hem just above the knees. Her sandals made no sound on the weathered boards.

As she came closer, Dick saw the sandal strips criss-crossing her legs up to just below the knees in the ancient Greek style. A gold bracelet curved around her upper arm, and she wore a yellow band around her brow. Thin, gold bracelets encircled both wrists.

Yassas, gentlemen! Are one of you Mr. Bruce Wayne?”

“I am.”

She was as tall as Bruce and a few inches taller than Dick. Her beauty was breathtaking.

“I am Diana, your guide.” She held out her hand and Bruce shook it. She shook Dick’s hand, her grip firm. Her skin was bronzed from the Mediterranean sun and her eyes were a startling blue.

“Welcome, Miss Diana. I have my boat ready,” said Bruce.

“An impressive vessel, but it would be better to use mine. It is small, swift and will easily navigate any channel.”

“Very well. I’ll inform my butler that he can go back to the hotel and enjoy the day.”

& & & & & &


Diana piloted her small boat with skill as they traversed the scattered islands. Throughout the course of the day, they passed Crete, Euboea and Rhodes.

“Imagine the Colossus in all its glory under an ancient sun,” Diana said. Her perfect English was spoken with a charming Greek accent.

“What a magnificent sight it must have been,” Dick said in wonder.

“There is much in my country to dream about.”

Dick agreed with that. Greece was a land of the past that could be important for his and Bruce’s future.

“Can we visit Lesbos?” Bruce asked.

“Of course. That is my home island.”

They arrived on Lesbos at noon, and Dick requested that Diana lead them to the Shrine at Eresos. They tied up at the dock and Diana led them over the beach and into the woods, emerging out onto a narrow road. She guided them to the beautiful statue of Sappho, Lesbos’ most famous historical citizen.

Sappho was an impressive figure of marble, draped in a toga and surrounded by colorful flowers. A beautiful pool was filled with floating lilies, serene and contemplative.

“She was a great poet and inspiration,” Diana said quietly.

Dick thought of Sappho’s reputation as a lover of women. He felt a kinship with her as he stood close to Bruce, brushing his hand against his companion’s.

“Come, let us eat luncheon by the sea,” Diana invited with a twinkle in her eyes as they left the shrine.

Bruce and Dick followed her to a grassy area by a cliff. It afforded them a magnificent view of the sea. Whitecaps danced under the sun as Diana set down the picnic basket she had carried from the boat. She set out a yellow tablecloth embroidered with blue flowers.

Bruce and Dick were delighted to dine on fresh fish sandwiches with lettuce and a tangy mustard that added to the flavor of the fish. They each enjoyed a bowl of garden salad sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese and vine-ripened grapes.

“Try this olive oil. It is of the finest.” Diana held out a cruet, the contents shimmering in the sunlight like liquid gold.

A bottle of wine was their drink, and Dick asked, “This is really good. What is it?”

“Home-brewed. It is blueberry wine.”

Dick laughed delightedly. “It’s delicious! So you made it yourself?”

“My mother and I.”

“I agree with Dick. Delicious,” said Bruce, saluting Diana with his wineglass.

She smiled and drank her wine. “Where else do you wish to go?”

“Oh, I think we’ll just sail around. It’s a gorgeous day.”

“Very well. I would like to sail the seas on a day like this.” She looked at them, considering something. “Would you like to meet my mother? My home is not far from here.”

“We’d like that very much,” said Dick.

& & & & & &


The cottage that was Diana’s home was modest but neat, a red tile roof off-setting the white stucco. Red shutters framed matching window boxes with colorful flowers nodding in the sun.

Hippolyta was a lovely woman with sun-tossed blond hair and dressed in a simple blue peasant skirt with a white blouse edged in blue. She wore several bracelets that clinked and jangled with the movement of her arms.

The kitchen was bright and cheerful, the wood light in color and green plants climbing along the windowsills from their hand-painted pots. A sturdy table and chairs was set on the rough wooden floor.

“Welcome to our home, gentlemen. Did you enjoy your luncheon?”

“Very much, Mrs. Prince.”

Hippolyta was pleased. “Sit, and we shall have a little dessert while you tell me about your travels.”

The cakes were light, tasting of lemon, and served with cold tea in tall glasses squirted with lemons. Bruce told them about his Grand Tour and Hippolyta asked, “And what part of America are you from?”

“Gotham City. It’s on the East Coast.”

“I would love to see America someday,” Diana said dreamily.

“It’s an exciting country. I would be more than happy to be your guide.”

Dick leaned forward and spoke in a conspiratorial tone to Diana. “He could guide both of us.”

She laughed. “You are not American?”

He shook his head. “I am not a millionaire, but a humble dancer.” At Bruce’s laugh he pretended to take umbrage and the women giggled.

“A dancer?” Hippolyta poured more tea. “Are you performing in Athens?”

“Yes, with the Ballet Magnifique.”

“Ballet! How wonderful!” said Diana.

“If you wish to come see a performance, I’ll leave tickets for you at the box office,” offered Dick.

The women gladly accepted.

After dessert Diana showed them the parlor, a room of comfortable furniture and paintings of Greek landscapes on the walls. They were painted by a friend in the village, she explained. A wooden bookcase was set against one wall and contained Greek histories and biographies, with a study of Sappho and another of the legendary Amazons taking up prominent places. A bronze sculpture of a woman in battle dress carrying a sword and shield was on top of the bookcase.

“What a beautiful piece,” said Dick as he went closer to look at it.

“It is of my mother’s namesake, Queen Hippolyta.”

“Such a fierce warrior!”

“Yes.” Diana’s pride shone in her face as she stood in that modest little parlor. Dick could see her as a Queen or Princess, leading her women warriors into battle.

“Ah, a history of the American Civil War,” Bruce said as he studied the bookcase.

“Yes, a fascinating tale. I am glad that your country survived such turmoil.” Her expression grew sad. “Such loss, even of your great President.”

Bruce nodded gravely.

There were other books about art and histories of other countries, and a section of novels, both literature and potboiler. It amused the visitors to see the eclectic collection.

“Now, let us go sail the seas,” Diana said cheerfully.

& & & & & &


After a pleasant afternoon out on the water, Bruce and Dick returned to the hotel. Tired but happy, they removed their clothes and crawled into bed in Bruce’s suite.

Dick snuggled close to his companion, their bodies warm under the sheets. Bruce’s arm slipped around his shoulders and Dick sighed happily. He felt safe in his lover’s arms.

Safety was important to him. On the night that he had lost his parents, his sense of being safe in the world was gone. It had taken him many years to achieve even some measure of security, found at the Ballet Magnifique, but full security was in Bruce’s arms.

“I love you,” he mumbled into Bruce’s chest.

The rumble of laughter was deep. “I love you, too.” Bruce nuzzled Dick’s hair. “We’ll take care of everything.”

“The Raven and the Nightingale ride again?”

“Of course. Though maybe not in costume this time.”

The fading rays of the sunlight sparkled off the jeweled nightingale set on top of the dresser as they fell asleep.


XXV

FIRE AND WATER


My past crumbles
In bitter ash.

My past stumbles
As I crash.

The flames eat
My bones.

The flames beat
My frenzied moans.


Sam Carver
“The Southern Curse”
1899 C.E.



Bruce and Dick alighted on the shores of Lesbos under a gray sky. The horizon was darker, threatening bad weather. A strong wind blew off the water, ruffling hair and snatching at their shirts. The duo was dressed very casually, and Bruce had decided against the yacht. He wanted something lighter and more maneuverable. He had not liked the look of the sky that morning.

“Good thing we’re not in costume,” Dick said with a quick smile. “Our cloaks would be out like full sail.”

Bruce chuckled. “Fortunately, we can do our business without the trappings of the Raven and Nightingale.”

“The Raven would love a day like this.”

Bruce’s excitement quickened. “We can still be resourceful.”

“I just hope our friends can make it all right.” Dick instinctively looked up toward the trees. “We’d better get going. It’s 2:30.”

“Right.”

They tied off the boat to the small dock that Diana had used a few days ago. Dick carried a valise filled with money and Bruce kept an eye on their surroundings.

They left the beach and entered the forest, traveling a short distance in the cool interior. Bruce shivered. The wind whistled through the trees, the mournful sound prickling along the back of his neck.

They emerged onto the narrow road and walked at a brisk pace, the temperature dropping. A huge gust of wind blew through the trees with the force of a runaway train, nearly knocking Dick off his feet. Bruce grabbed his arm and had a difficult time maintaining his balance.

“Figures our blackmailer would pick a day when it looks like a hurricane’s coming!” Dick shouted to be heard above the wind.

“Let’s hope our blackmailer makes it here. I don’t want to wait any more to nab him!”

They struggled against the wind, canting forward like figureheads on the prows of ships on storm-tossed seas. Each step leeched energy out of them as the road seemed endless, the wind bending and swaying the trees in a macabre dance.

Finally they reached the shrine and Dick jammed the valise at the base of the statue, putting a large rock on top of it.

“Let’s get out of here!” he said, and Bruce followed without protest.

They disappeared into the woods, settling in a spot well-hidden to begin their vigil. Dick looked up at the darkening sky and sighed. “It’s going to rain.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“So this is the life of a Raven and Nightingale, huh?”

Bruce’s smile was amused. “Not too elegant a picture, are we?”

Dick chuckled.

They lapsed into silence, the wind swirling with gale force. Dick shivered and Bruce put his arm around him.

“I hope the others are all right,” Dick said fretfully.

“Yes, let’s hope they’ve reached the other side of the island by now.”

Dick sighed again. “I don’t think our mystery blackmailer is going to show.”

“You might be right, but it’s too soon to tell.”

They waited until half an hour past three, than headed for the beach after retrieving the valise. It began to rain as they trudged down the road and through the woods. They hurried across the beach as the wind blew cold, stinging rain into their faces.


“Look!” Dick shouted. “A man’s out there!”

Before either of them could act, they saw a swimmer already heading for the man slumped over a piece of driftwood.

“It’s Diana!”

Her strokes were powerful as she cleaved through the water, reaching him as the waves swelled. She grabbed the man and began swimming back toward shore.

Bruce and Dick helped Diana drag the man out of the surf as the rain battered their skin, soaking through their clothes.

The man’s blond hair was plastered to his head, a cut glistening at his right temple. He was wearing a uniform and Bruce shouted, “Looks like American Army, though why he should wash up on the shore of Lesbos, I don’t know.”

“He is hurt. Help me get him to my house.” Diana’s hair was wild as the wind whipped it around and her anxiety was plain.

The three of them managed to carry the injured man to Diana’s home. They burst inside and Hippolyta nearly dropped a plate she was washing at the kitchen sink.

“Diana! What is this? Who is this man?”

“An American, Mother. He is hurt.”

They brought him into one of the small bedrooms and Hippolyta laid out an old blanket over the bed to protect the sheets.

“You ladies get some bandages,” Bruce directed. “Dick and I will strip him of these wet clothes.”

Hippolyta and Diana left the room, Diana reluctantly as she kept looking back at the man. Bruce and Dick quickly stripped their patient and covered him with a sheet.

“How bad is that head injury?” Dick asked.

“Could be bad. Doesn’t look like much, but head injuries are tricky.” Bruce examined the wound. “I wish that Alfred was here. He’s good with medical matters.”

The windowpanes rattled as rain pelted their glass. It came down in torrents as the skies opened up. Dick looked out the window and saw the waves wild like Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill in the last war, waving swords and uttering battle cries torn from eager throats.

“I’m worried about them.” Dick put a hand on the glass.

“So am I.” Bruce touched the patient’s brow. “A bit of a fever.”

Dick frowned. “How did an Army officer wind up on a piece of driftwood in the Mediterranean Sea?”

“He could have been on one of our ships, or a Greek one as a liaison of some sort.” He glanced over at the pile of wet clothing in the corner. “I don’t suppose he carried any orders?”

“If he did, you couldn’t read them. They’d fall apart.”

Diana and Hippolyta returned with bandages, a bowl of water and washcloths. Diana sat on the edge of the bed and cleansed the wound, then applied the bandages. Hippolyta wet a cloth and wrung it out, starting to wipe her patient down. She pulled the sheet down to his waist.

Once again Dick was impressed by the officer’s physique. He could see that Diana was attracted to him and he could see why.

The officer groaned and his eyes fluttered open. He gazed up at Diana.

“An Angel,” he breathed.

She smiled like the sun breaking through the clouds. “You have the tongue of a poet.”

His smile was equally bright, and Bruce and Dick exchanged amused glances. Bruce leaned forward from his chair. “What’s your name?”

“Captain Steve Trevor.”

“U.S. Army?”

“Yes.”

“How did you end up here?”

“I was…” Steve coughed, groaning painfully. “…assigned to liaison duty…with the Greek Army.”

Diana brushed the hair back from his brow. “You should rest.”

Steve did look tired. He was bruised and battered and looked ready to fall asleep.

“Yes, you should rest,” urged Hippolyta.

Suddenly there was a loud pounding on the front door. Dick was the first one out of the bedroom and yanked open the door, shocked to see his missing friends and a bedraggled man they dragged into the parlor, pushing him to his knees.

“Haclav Vlasic?” Dick shut the door and joined his friends, who were all soaked to the bone. He became aware of his own damp clothes. “What’s going on?”

“Vasily’s Vlasic’s boat broke up and washed up on shore,” Natasha said, pushing wet hair out of her eyes.

“Yeah, Haclav is the louse in the house,” snarled Clint.

“Why, Haclav?” asked Dick.

Haclav’s face contorted with hate. “Because you are a stinking, filthy Gypsy!”

Dick’s stomach contorted. He never could get used to the hate. “Well, your little scheme failed.”

“Why’d you try to kill him?” Bruce demanded.

“Because I wanted to finish the job if I couldn’t get the money.”

“’Finish the job’?” asked Dinah in a puzzled voice. Ollie frowned beside her.

“Yes , because I only got your parents that night,” Haclav spat at Dick.

Dick felt a cold numbness spread through his body. “You were there…that night?”

“Of course, Gypsy. My friends and I set your pitiful little camp on fire, and we watched them burn!”

& & & & & &


The screams rent the air along with the acrid smell of burning flesh. The golden tassels on the wagons danced wildly as they caught fire and turned to ash in seconds.

He ran in terror, hearing the taunts and curses, trying to find his parents. He stumbled to a halt, horrified as he saw the laughing, leering men cast their torches and the flames swallowed his parents with fiery pain…


& & & & & &


“Dick!”

Bruce’s sharp cry penetrated the fog of memory and Dick snapped out of his horror. He started down at Haclav VasilyVlasic, suddenly remembering his face from that awful night, and the man took advantage of everyone’s shock. He scrambled to his feet and pushed past Dick, managing to escape through the front door. Before anyone could move, Dick was after him.

He plunged into the howling maelstrom, barely able to see as the rain was whipped into his face. He ran after Vasily Vlasic with a pounding heart, too many emotions mixed up to separate.

The rain stung like pellets on his skin as he stumbled in mud and branches lashed out at his arms and legs. He ran like a racehorse as he pursued the killer, blood pounding in his ears as he fled into the night.

He could barely see Vlasic but his determination was molten-hot. He would not let this son-of-a-pig get away! He deserved nothing less than his parents’ fate. As he ran, tears slid down his face, mingling with the rain. His muscles knotted with tension as he propelled his body forward, the old horror mixing with fresh pain.

A shadow moved several yards away behind the curtain of rain. Dick felt the coldness dig deeper into his soul.

They reached the small rise that he, Bruce, and Diana had picnicked on earlier in the week. Vlasic scrabbled up the hill, Dick right behind him.

Vlasic reached the edge of the cliff and turned to face Dick. “Go away, Gypsy! This rain will not cleanse you!”

“You’re a vile murderer!” Dick panted, more from rage than exertion.

“Of what? Stinkin’ Gypsies? The world is better off without your kind!”

Dick lunged forward and grabbed Vlasic’s shirt. They struggled as the wind buffeted their bodies and they staggered like drunken sailors. Vlasic slipped in the wet grass and slid over the edge of the cliff, clawing for purchase. He screamed up at Dick, “Save me!”

Flames wavered behind Dick’s eyes as he started down at Vlasic, seeing the laughing visage as the flames danced.

“Stinkin’, no-good Gypsy!”

Vlasic’s face was contorted with hate. He swore as Dick finally reached for him but he slid down the cliff as he could no longer hold his grip on the edge, screaming his final sparks of venom as he fell to the rocks below.

A hand clamped down on Dick’s shoulder. He knew Bruce’s touch.

The waves crashed over the jagged rocks, and when the wild foam returned back to the sea, the broken body of Haclav Vlasic was gone.


XXVI

DANCE AMONGST THE RUINS


Athena’s Blessing
Shine down upon thee
In the brilliant light
Of day.


Ancient Greek Blessing
3rd Century B.C.E.



Dick danced like a dream, a light breeze ruffling his hair and toga. Natasha met him with matching grace, the passionate dance drawing in the watchers as the sun beat down like precious gold sent down by Apollo from Mount Olympus. The old tale of jealousy and passion played out among the pure, sun-bleached stones of Athena’s temple.

The front row was filled with the smiling faces of Bruce, Alfred, Dinah, Ollie, Diana, Steve, and Hippolyta. Clint was hidden in the shadows with the other stagehands.

Dick felt free as he leaped and pirouetted with powerful legs, the short toga affording the audience a good view of his beauty and strength. He lifted Natasha up and she split her legs, the longer folds of her toga swirling as Dick spun around, waiting until she arched her back before his final spin. He set her down gently and they began a quick series of movements in tandem.

Whitecaps bobbed on azure seas as fishing boats puttered by and pleasure boats made their proud way out to sea. Seagulls flew high as the city of Athens lay gleaming far below the Acropolis.

The colorful silks and satins of the audience contrasted with the simple silks of the togas, a jarring juxtaposition of modern and ancient. Broad-brimmed, sweeping hats with feathers vied with derbies and bowler hats. Long skirts and stiff collars were as confining as the dancers’ togas were freeing.

Dick loved the freedom that the toga gave him. If he could get away with it, he would wear one all the time. He smiled at the thought.

What would Bruce think if I walked down the street, clad in just a toga?

The final movement began, and when it finished, he and the cast took a bow. Applause and flowers were thrown their way.

The audience was brought to another area of the Parthenon where tables had been set up with refreshments.

Bruce went backstage and he and Dick went into another area, cool and dark. The gleam of sweat was still on Dick’s skin and the white toga was pure and silken to the touch. Bruce caressed the white folds as he said, “You were magnificent out there.”

“Thank you.” Dick edged closer. “How about showing me your appreciation?”

“Not here.” Bruce nuzzled his neck. “You’re incredible and I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

& & & & & &


Bruce did not feel the usual tension in Dick when love was mentioned. He seemed more relaxed now.

Did Vlasic’s death close a door for Dick? Did he confront his past and finally put it to rest?

Bruce drew Dick to him, the silken toga falling off his shoulders. He kissed his lover, wanting more, but acutely aware of the dozens of people milling around the temple.

He’ll never forget what happened that terrible night, of course, but that confrontation might have chased away some of the ghosts as justice was done to one of the murderers.

As he pulled back, he decided to take a chance. He put his hands on Dick’s shoulders.

“Dick, I’ll be going home after Labor Day.” At the other man’s puzzled expression, he clarified, “It’s an American holiday the first Monday in September.”

“Ah.” Dick looked unhappy.

“I want you to come to America with me.”

“But, my career…”

“There’s a ballet company in Gotham. I wrote the manager and he’s looking for a new lead male dancer.” He squeezed Dick’s shoulders. “I know it isn’t the crowned heads of Europe…”

“I’ll come with you.”

Bruce stared. It was too easy! “You’ll come with me?”

“Of course!” Dick’s smile was gentle. “I wouldn’t tease you about something like this, Bruce.”

Bruce loved Dick even more, if that was possible. He hugged him hard.

“My contract runs out at the end of the summer, so there will be no problem with Ballet Magnifique.”

Bruce decided not to tell Dick that he already knew about the contract and that was why he had chosen Labor Day as his time to go home. Instead he smiled and took hold of Dick’s hand and squeezed it.

“I think it’s time to leave the old hatreds behind,” Dick said quietly.

“I’m afraid that America has its share.”

“No doubt, but I welcome a fresh start.” He cocked his head. “What is this Labor Day?”

“A holiday to honor the working man and woman.”

“Any country that does that has promise.”

Bruce squeezed his hand again. “You’re the toast of Athens. Let’s go bask in your glory.”

“I eagerly fly to my adoring public.”

“Fitting for a Nightingale.”

Dick’s smile was as sparkling as the jewels on his golden nightingale as he and Bruce went to join the others.



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