Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, James Reagan, Henry/Caroline, William/Valencia (William does not appear in this chapter), Corella Woodbridge
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
Warnings (this chapter): None
General Summary: A series of daring robberies on Gotham City’s Gold Coast catches the attention of the Raven and the Nightingale.
Chapter Summary: Gotham High Society welcomes Bruce home.
Date Of Completion: October 18, 2014
Date Of Posting: August 14, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1886
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Submitted to my 2015 DCU Fic/Art Dick Grayson Diamond Anniversary Challenge. The entire series can be found here.
September 27, 1907
The headlines screamed the story of the daring theft of the Collins Faberge egg. The Gotham Police Commissioner, Alexander Teague, was besieged by angry millionaires fearful for their treasures.
Bruce read The Gotham Gazette over breakfast, reading aloud the pertinent parts to Dick, who busily tapped his hard-boiled egg with a spoon.
“Miss Vicki Vale is good at digging out stories. The servants gave her a good description of our burglar’s dashing ride.”
“Luckily we weren’t included.” Dick peeled his egg.
“It is not time for the Raven and the Nightingale to make their presence known.”
“Stay in the shadows, huh?”
“Ravens do not flit about in the daytime,” Bruce said with exaggerated diction.
Dick grinned. “Nightingales do.”
Bruce hid his smile behind the paper. “Don’t forget we have that little soiree to attend at the Stoddards’ tonight.”
“Ah, yes, the welcome home gala.” Dick ate a slice of toast. “And I’m invited?”
“That’s what the engraved invitation says.”
“All right with me.” Dick slathered another piece of toast with strawberry jam. “I’ve been to bashes like this before.”
“Just like they say in Hollywood.”
Bruce lowered his paper. “How do you know about Hollywood?” he asked in amusement.
“Europe has a movie industry, too. I read the magazines. Many had stories about Hollywood.”
“And did they say it was wicked and full of sin?”
Bruce stroked his chin. “You know, maybe we should take a trip to the sunny climes of California in the future. I’ve always wanted to see lemon trees.”
“Sounds like fun.”
Bruce smiled. “Always up for fun, I see.”
“Always.” Dick’s expression was sly over his juice glass.
Dick studied himself in the full-length mirror as Bruce decided on which pair of cufflinks to wear. His white tie and tails were impressive, perfectly tailored as he located the jewelry he wanted. He glanced up at his reflection as he checked to see if he had used enough pomade on his hair.
He was pleased with the overall effect. Looking good was a requirement for the Prince of Gotham, after all.
Dick was frowning as he tried to tie his cravat. He let out a sigh of frustration.
“I can tie a cravat!”
“Yes, but we all need help sometimes.” Bruce looked at his lover, who was wearing one of his favorite suits, the dark-green one which he liked to wear with a yellow vest and red cravat. A small emerald glittered in the middle of cherry-red silk as a paler shade of yellow shirt was actually a good match for the whole ensemble.
“Lovely outfit,” Bruce said.
“But I should be in white tie and tails?”
Bruce smiled affectionately. “Up to you.”
Dick sighed and began undressing.
Bruce made his final adjustments and watched as Dick fixed his beautiful cravat in front of the dresser mirror. It was still the cherry-red silk. The yellow vest was part of the ensemble again. Bruce smiled. Dick could not be conventional. It simply was not in his make-up.
“What do you think?” Dick asked.
“Perfect.” Bruce put his hands on Dick’s hips and nuzzled his neck. “Just like you.”
“Ah, you flatter me.”
“That’s the idea.”
Dick laughed. “You’re incorrigible, you know that?”
“Insatiable, too.” Bruce began to nip at Dick’s neck.
“Stop that!” Dick wiggled out of Bruce’s grasp. “We’ll be late.”
“They can’t start without us.”
Dick rolled his eyes. “So this is the life of the spoiled rich?”
Dick smirked. “You would make a fine diva, my friend.”
Bruce puffed up proudly. Dick laughed again and wound the key of his nightingale music box. As the jewel-encrusted bird trilled its song, Dick held out his hand and they danced as Dick took the lead.
Bruce was happy for this little dance. It was private, just the two of them, and certainly would never be the kind of dance they would have at the Stoddards’ estate. At the ball, every eye would be on them, and of course there could be no dancing. Men did not dance with men, except for certain clubs in Paris’ Left Bank and New York’s Greenwich Village.
Their waltz was graceful and intimate, each man smelling the other’s cologne and gazing into each other’s eyes with smiles on their faces.
As the song wound down Dick said, “There. Good practice for tonight.”
Bruce adjusted his tie. “Yes, good practice.”
The Stoddard mansion was ablaze with light. Mr. Edison’s invention was doing well at Elmwood with every room on the first floor utilizing the electricity that had changed so many lives.
Head Groom Regan had driven Bruce and Dick in the carriage. He was dressed warmly as he would be staying outside for the evening, and the kitchen would provide hot chocolate and food later on for all the drivers. The driveway was rapidly filling up with carriages.
Caroline Stoddard had outdone herself. The decorations were autumn-themed with pumpkins on the veranda and shocks of cornstalks tied to the pillars, and arrangements of colorful leaves inside around the foyer. Music could be heard coming from down the hall.
Caroline swept into the foyer, her pale blond hair arranged in an intricate hairdo with ruby hair clips. Her gown was lace-trimmed and a deep russet gold. A ruby brooch sparkled at her throat.
“Bruce, darling, how delightful to see you.” She held out her hands.
Bruce took them and squeezed gently. “Thank you for this little shindig, Caroline.”
“My pleasure, my dear. Henry! Come welcome our guest!”
A tall man with muttonchop whiskers and a full mustache approached the group. His hair was reddish-brown and his eyes were hazel. His tuxedo was immaculate.
“Bruce, old man, how was the Continent?”
“Peachy, Henry, peachy.” Bruce shook hands vigorously with his host. “Let me introduce the newest star of the Gotham Ballet Company, the toast of the Continent.”
Dick gave a sweeping bow and the Stoddards looked at him with a critical eye. Caroline smiled and said, “Welcome, Mr. Grayson. Your reputation precedes you.”
“Thank you, Madame. So said Czar Nicholas when we first met last winter.”
Henry’s eyebrows rose high as he shook Dick’s hand. Everyone was wearing gloves as fashion and protocol demanded.
“Come, there are many more people to meet.” Caroline said.
She played the hostess with style and introduced Dick to many of Gotham High Society’s personages. Bruce noticed their polite greetings, and some held genuine interest in Dick as celebrity. Yet he could also see the faint contempt. Dick was a dancer, an entertainer, barely a step above an actor. It was perfectly all right to bask in the aura cast by one of the famous, but they would never invite him to tea or some very exclusive ball except as entertainment. He had only been invited to this ball as a courtesy to him, one of their own.
If Dick was a woman and I was openly courting her, my friends and family would not approve of her profession.
Bruce picked up a glass of champagne from a passing waiter’s tray. His heart ached as another thought came to him.
With Dick as a man, I can’t even enjoy that much.
Dick attracted his own crowd, playing to them as the showman he was born to be. Bruce watched in amusement.
“Bruce, dear, how nice to see you.”
He turned and smiled genuinely. “Val, love! You’re looking delicious.”
Valencia Collins smiled. Dressed in pale green with Brussels lace, she was a vision of loveliness. Emeralds sparkled at her ears and throat as she sipped champagne.
“Delicious is what you’ll find the food to be, I hope.”
“I thought Caroline was the hostess.”
She laughed. “I was consulted.”
“So generous of you to help after that frightful robbery.”
Valencia’s green eyes clouded momentarily. “Frightful, indeed. Our beautiful Faberge egg is gone, probably forever.”
“I read the newspapers. Were the accounts accurate?”
She shrugged. “Mostly. William and I had gone upstairs and were preparing for bed when we heard a noise downstairs. He was about to investigate when a loud series of noises brought us to the window. We saw a rider on a horse dash to the wall and vault over it. Not the horse, the rider.”
Bruce chuckled. “That would have been some steeplechase.”
“Yes.” Valencia stared into her glass. “You know, there was something odd…”
Bruce winced at the sound of the voice of Corella Woodbridge. He fixed a smile on his face and turned.
“Hello.” The portly woman was nearly buried in a wild profusion of feathers and jewels as her ample bosom heaved in its lavender bodice. A string of jet pearls were draped to her waist. “Have you seen Carissa yet? She would so like to hear about your travels during the Grand Tour.”
“She should come to my lecture. I have dozens of slides.”
“Yes, well, she was hoping for something a little more private…”
“We should get together at that lecture. Good to see you, Corella.”
Bruce quickly moved away, charming everyone in his path. He looked for Valencia but was unable to find her.
Dick was holding court as he entertained the crème de la crème of Society. Bruce wandered over to the buffet table, sampling slices of juicy roast beef from the carving station chef, potatoes au gratin, and asparagus spears that he smothered in hollandaise sauce. He stood by a large potted fern, the leaves obscuring his presence.
Dick’s court was close by as he spun tales of meeting the Czar and Czarina and dancing at the Parthenon. The ladies were aflutter as the men listened in amusement.
“And it was as if we were in Ancient Greece, the sun sparkling on azure water as boats floated by and we danced into the hearts of our audience. We could hear the lutes and pipes as the sun shone down on the Mediterranean as it had done two thousand years ago.”
Bruce continued scamming the crowd for Valencia. What odd thing had she seen the night of the robbery?
He finished his meal. A maid appeared, dark hair tucked up under her frilly cap. She took his plate.
“Thank you.” He glanced up. Green eyes shifted down demurely as he turned and walked away, Bruce looking at a fine view. “The maids are getting handsomer every day,” he muttered.
He started to mingle, telling little pieces of his trip, keeping to the dictum of ‘less is more’. Maybe he really would present a slide lecture.
“Cheap,” sniffed an elderly gentleman as Bruce passed him in conversation with another old man.
“People like cheap and tawdry,” the second sniffed.
“I guess so.” The first man shrugged. “In my day, a good family would not even allow such trash into the house.”
“Entertainers,” said the second man contemptuously.
Bruce almost stopped to turn around and chew the duo out but kept going. He would change no one’s mind. Society was calcified in its opinions, but Society’s opinions mattered.
He was back in his beloved Gotham, and if he was going to change anything, it would have to be from within.