Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Lucius Fox, Ollie Queen, Alfred
Series Notes: In the 23rd century, Earth is a technologically-advanced society that practices the ancient institution of slavery. The wealthy freeman Bruce Wayne acquires a highly-prized pleasure slave whom has fallen in love with him…but can the Prince of Gotham ever return that love? And will it all be moot as a weak abolitionist movement slowly gathers strength while the Galactic Empire remains in a perpetual state of Cold War? The entire series can be found here.
Categories: Drama, AU
Rating: (this chapter): PG-13
Summary: Bruce continues to distance himself from Clark after a warning and an accident.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): July 14, 2007
Date Of Posting: November 19, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1783
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Hidden beneath the roses,
Was the sharp-edged thorn,
Piercing skin and his heart,
Janice Greenleaf Whittier
“Nature’s Gold And Other Poems”
THE ROSE AND THE THORN
Bruce slammed his fist on his desk. “Damnit, Lucius, this deal was close to completion! What the hell happened?”
Lucius sighed from the chair in front of Bruce’s desk. “Things just went south, Bruce.”
“That’s not good enough! I want to know what got fucked up!” Damnit, Alfred would wash my mouth out with soap. A sudden thought made him frown. “This wasn’t a Lexcorp grab, was it? Or Lex’s old man at Luthorcorp?”
“Not that it appears.”
Bruce slumped in his chair. He had been like a bear with a sore paw all morning. It was a wonder that Lucius hadn’t whacked him over the head with a chair.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I worked on this for weeks…” And I’ve been running myself ragged chasing a madman and last night I dreamed that the slave I love was raped to death…
“Well, sir, you can call Brick Braxton of Braxton Industries and get started trying to turn the tide there.”
“Okay.” All Bruce wanted was to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. Preferably with Clark. He punched the intercom button. “Andrea, get me Brick Braxton.”
Lucius rose and said, “Good luck, Bruce.”
The phone rang and Bruce picked it up, expecting Brick Braxton.
“Hey, old buddy!”
“Hey, Ollie!” He relaxed. “What’s up?”
“Oh, you know how it is. Busy night and day.” Bruce smiled. “Just wanted to give you a heads-up.”
“Yeah. The servant grapevine, slave and free, has it that ol’ Edmund Caldwell pitched a fit when he saw you at the Harvest Ball with Cl…your Prize.”
Bruce frowned. “So what? It’s not against custom to bring a pleasure slave to a function like that.”
“It might not be against custom but Old Man Caldwell considers it an insult just the same.”
“Again, so what?”
“Hey, just lettin’ you know, ol’ buddy!” Ollie’s light tone was underlaid with concern. “According to the grapevine, he kept it civil at the Ball but once he got home he really ranted and raved. I think the word ‘disgrace’ was used a lot in between four-letter words, and a certain five-letter word applied to your Prize. You know that if Edmund gets it in his head that you are crossing him somehow, he could cause you no end of trouble.”
“Yeah.” Bruce rubbed between his eyes. He could feel the start of a killer headache. “Thanks, Ollie. It’s always good to have intel.”
“I thought so.” Bruce could hear the smile in Ollie’s voice. “You take it easy, hear me?”
“I will. And say hello to Dinah for me.”
Bruce hung up the phone, staring out the window. He had already put some distance between him and Clark, trying to sort through his emotions. Now he wondered if he should put more distance between them. If they were out in public and he looked at Clark with the look of love…someone like Edmund Caldwell would know right away, and Ollie was right. It would be no end of trouble.
Especially for Clark.
& & & & & &
Clark wandered through the gardens, pleased that there were some late-blooming flowers that created splashes of color.
He breathed in the sea air, hands in the pockets of his jacket. The weather was growing colder and the ocean more restless now in late autumn. While some trees still held blazing colors, most of the leaves were off the trees now. Limbs stood stark and black against the sky, crows cawing as they flew from tree-to-tree.
Clark walked over to a wooden archway, vines entwined around the posts. Next June would see roses blooming here. He was careful not to prick his skin against the thorns.
He looked up and saw holes partially-hidden by the vines, one on each side. There were dark stains here and there on the wood.
Not an archway, nor a trellis, but a whipping post.
Clark ran his hand over the wood, careful of the thorns. He knew that Bruce’s parents had sold all the household slaves except for Alfred and a few elderly retainers when Bruce had been a young child. The elderly slaves eventually passed away and only Alfred remained.
Had this whipping post been used by Thomas and Martha Wayne to discipline their slaves, or had it been used by Thomas’ ancestors? Whatever the case, the symbolism of turning a whipping post into a rose trellis pleased him.
He was hopeful that Bruce would take a more active role in abolitionism. He understood why the man he loved could not be open about it. An abolitionist could not keep slaves, and Clark had no desire to be sold, but there were behind-the-scenes ways…
He stood and a wave of dizziness caused him to grab for the post, wincing as his hand was pierced by thorns. He felt slightly nauseated as his back twinged. He looked up at the crossbeam again, remembering the hellacious pain and the mocking laughter of the whipping he had endured at the Caldwell estate. His body trembled as he leaned against the post, trying to remain upright.
He bit his lip until the nausea passed. Depression settled over him as gently as a cloak. If his Master was truly tired of him…his stomach clenched and he felt sick again.
He couldn’t be sent away! He would do anything to stay. Not only was he terrified of the auction block, but he didn’t want to leave Bruce, no matter what.
He belonged with Bruce…whether slave or free.
He pushed away from the post and trudged up to the house. He hoped that Bruce would teach him how to help him by using the specialized computer in the Batcave via accessing and organizing files, learning details about past missions and criminals, and becoming a sounding board for him. Unfortunately, Bruce was far too busy right now and wasn’t exactly clamoring for his bedslave’s company.
He sighed as he entered the kitchen.
“Clark, Master Bruce is home early. He wishes you to dress for a trapeze session.”
“Of course. I’ll go upstairs and change right away.”
Clark quickly went up the stairs, his joy suddenly tempered. He couldn’t fly today. He was too dizzy!
As he entered the bedroom he quickly changed. He’d be all right. He hadn’t been on the trapeze in so long, and he needed to serve his Master in other ways if he wasn’t desired in the bedroom anymore.
He hurried down to the gym.
& & & & & &
Bruce flexed his muscles, clenching and unclenching his hands. He needed practice, a sharpening-up of his flying skills, and Clark was a good partner.
It was all simply business, he told himself.
His slave entered the gym, dressed and ready.
They started out with simple exercises, then progressed to a simple routine, then more complicated. Bruce began to relax for the first time that day.
Clark was sitting on the bar, swinging out, ready to hang upside down when he suddenly started to slip off the bar.
Bruce reached out but couldn’t catch his slave, who plummeted to the net. Bruce swung to the platform and scrambled down the pole rungs.
Clark was shaking, Bruce helping him down from the net. He grasped Clark’s shoulders.
“I…I got dizzy.”
“Damn! Unlucky that it happened up there…” Bruce saw the guilt flicker in Clark’s eyes and an ugly suspicion began to form. “Wait…were you dizzy before you went up there?!”
“I…I’m sorry, Master. You needed a partner…”
“I need a partner I can trust!” Bruce shook him. “You could’ve been hurt or killed! You could’ve gotten me hurt!” Anger blazed in his eyes. “I need an honest partner, Clark, to tell me if you’re 100%!”
He dropped his hands and stalked away.
“Master, I promise, it won’t happen again!”
But Bruce didn’t look back.
& & & & & &
Clark remained in the gym for at least thirty minutes, trying to quell his stomach and berating himself for stupidity. Of course Bruce was right! You had to trust your partner to tell you if you were sharp or not in such dangerous business. His own eagerness to fly and to be useful had caused him to cut corners with disastrous results.
He slowly rose to his feet and headed for the bedroom to shower and change for dinner.
At the top of the stairs he froze.
Alfred was carrying an armful of his clothes out of the master bedroom. He paused when he saw Clark, empathy in his hazel eyes.
Bruce appeared from the bedroom. “I’ve decided that it’s best this way for now. I need time…to think about some things.”
Clark was speechless, his hand trembling as it clutched the newell. Did Bruce look guilty for a split-second? But it was gone so quickly he couldn’t be sure.
Bruce said as he walked past Clark, “Alfred, I’ll be dining in town.”
“Very good, sir.”
Clark was still standing at the head of the stairs when he heard the front door shut. Alfred came out of the room next to Bruce’s and went back into the master bedroom. When he came back out with more clothing, he said, “Come on in, Clark.”
Clark obeyed his superior, his hand reflexively going to the medallion he wore, following Alfred into the room next to the master bedroom. He stood in the middle of the room, numbly cataloging the objects: a smaller bed but made up with fresh linens; a smaller dresser with neatly-arranged comb, brush, and hand mirror; a vintage 19th-century circus poster on one wall; a beautifully-painted rocking horse in one corner, and a window overlooking the gardens and ocean.
Alfred came out of the adjoining bathroom. “All your toiletries are in there, and your clothes are in the closet and dresser.” He smiled fondly at the rocking horse and poster. “This was Master Bruce’s old room.” He poked around the old fireplace. “We keep up the cleaning of these, so you can light a fire if you wish.” Alfred glanced at the bed and went to the closet, took out a quilt, and laid it at the foot of the bed. He squeezed Clark’s shoulder. “Rest for awhile, then come down to the kitchen for dinner.” He closed the door behind him.
Clark remained motionless in the middle of his new room, still clutching the medallion that Bruce had given him the night of the Halloween Harvest Ball.