Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Alfred, Lex Luthor, Lionel Luthor
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 celebrates a major business success and enjoys dinner with Lex while pondering a difficult decision.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): July 19, 2007
Date Of Posting: November 29, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1781
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
“This Branding Bill is an abomination. Do we really want to enforce a law
that mutilates valuable property, not to mention the human element in all this?”
Senator John F. Kennedy VI (D-MA)
Speech given at Boston, Massachusetts,
September 27, 22—C.E.
THE SWEET TASTE OF SUCCESS
The next morning, Bruce raced down the staircase, grabbing his briefcase off the foyer table and dashing through the kitchen.
“No time for breakfast, Alfred, I’ll get something in town!” Bruce skidded to a halt in front of the kitchen door and turned back, distress on his face. “Today is the day for Clark’s injection.”
“I’ll take care of it, sir.”
Relief swept over Bruce’s face. “Thank you,” he said, then hurried out the door.
Alfred went upstairs and into the master bathroom. He had carried a jar of quinium from the refrigerator and took out the hypospray from the medicine cabinet. He then went next door, quietly entering the room.
Clark was sitting up in bed, the quilt around his shoulders and covering his chest. His eyes were slightly glazed from confusion. Blinking, he asked, “Alfred?”
The butler knew that Clark had been expecting Bruce. He sat on the bed, opening the jar. The red liquid shimmered.
“Master Bruce had to leave early.” He drew the required dose into the hypo. “Arm out, please.”
Clark obeyed and Alfred expertly applied the shot. He rose to leave.
“Alfred?” The butler turned, saddened to see tears brimming in Clark’s eyes. “What if Master Bruce s…sells me?”
Alfred sat back down and put a hand on Clark’s arm. “No matter what happens, I know you will endure. And this will always be your home.”
Alfred squeezed Clark’s arm and left, the memory of Clark rapidly blinking away tears making his heart ache.
He couldn’t offer false hope. Master Bruce might very well sell Clark.
He still wished he could do more.
& & & & & &
Clark was listless, not bothering to keep up a cheerful façade today. He was terribly confused and Alfred found him leaning against the wall, pale with dizziness. He immediately steered him to the couch in the study.
Just before lunchtime Bruce called and informed him that he was off to Metropolis in hot pursuit of the acquisition.
“Pack me a bag, Alfred, and send Brendan in with it.”
“Very good, sir. Good luck.”
“Thank you, Alfred.” He hesitated for a moment, then asked, “How is Clark?”
“A little under-the-weather, sir, but nothing unusual on the day of a shot.”
“All right.” Bruce sounded both relieved and worried. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Alfred packed the bag, summoned Brendan, and gave the chauffeur instructions. Brendan nodded and took the bag.
Alfred passed the study and saw Clark half-awake. He went in and said, “Would you like some lunch?”
“I…maybe some crackers and ginger ale?”
“Certainly. Oh, Master Bruce will be in Metropolis pursuing his business acquisition. He’s not sure how long he’ll be.”
“Oh.” Sadness fleetingly crossed his face, then he smiled at Alfred. “Looks like just the two of us, Alfred.”
“It seems so.” Alfred answered with a smile of his own. He helped a groggy Clark to his feet.
& & & & & &
Bruce nearly danced out of the high-rise as dusk fell across Metropolis, swinging his briefcase. Success was always a heady elixir. His cellphone rang.
“Wayne here. Hello, Lex!” Astonishment crossed his face. “I only closed the deal a half hour ago!” Bruce laughed. “Yes, your sources are excellent! It’ll be all over the news by 11 o’clock.” Bruce stopped by a newsstand. “No, I’m not going back to Gotham tonight. I’m leaving early tomorrow morning. Oh, thank you for the offer of staying at the mansion, but I really need to get to bed early tonight. I wouldn’t be good company.” Bruce’s gaze idly roamed over the magazine covers. Time shrilled, Are We Ready To Go To War With The Collective? and The Galactic Gazetteer emblazoned the upcoming royal wedding on Jovara. Christianity In The 23rd Century featured The Biblical Basis Of Slavery and Newsweek’s cover story trumpeted The Branding Bill: Clampdown On Runaway Slaves Or Forced Mutilation? “I can do a late dinner here in town, though. I’ll meet you at Salazar’s.”
Bruce flipped his cellphone shut and picked up the Newsweek copy, paying the vendor as he flipped through the pages.
& & & & & &
Salazar’s was an Old Money establishment of understated taste and elegance, Bruce feeling right at home. Lex was waiting for him at a prominent table in front of the large windows that afforded a magnificent view of the city.
Bruce shook hands and they both sat, the maitre d’ presenting them with large menus. Bruce read through the French side to practice his language skills, then he and Lex ordered an elaborate meal.
“A bottle of your finest champagne,” Lex added as he handed the menu to the waiter.
Lex smiled. “Of course. This is a big coup for you, Bruce. Braxton Industries is a major player.”
Bruce shrugged but he smiled. “Brick wanted out.”
“Yes, he’s retiring to Rigel, I here.”
“He’ll live like a king there. He’s still going to make money by holding stock options.”
“He’s a smart man.”
When the champagne arrived, Lex toasted Bruce. “To your success.”
“Thank you.” They clinked glasses and Bruce sipped the bubbly. “Excellent vintage.”
“So,” Lex said as he set his glass down, “you’ve had a busy time since Halloween.”
“Things have been relatively quiet here in Metropolis. Oh, there was a little dust-up around the National Abolitionist Society conference, but other than that, nothing much.”
“Some protesters who didn’t like the idea of abolishing slavery.”
“Ah, we had the same thing in Gotham during their convention.”
“Yes, I heard that Batman had to intervene.”
“I heard that, too.”
“Sounded like he headed off trouble.”
“Seems to be his mission.”
“Hmm, he’s a vigilante.”
Bruce shrugged. “He cleans up the criminal element. The Gotham P.D. has a notorious history of corruption, though things are far better now under Jim Gordon.”
Lex looked at the magazine lying atop Bruce’s briefcase. “So, are you for or against this Branding Bill?”
“Against,” Bruce said and took another sip of champagne. “You?”
“Against.” Lex watched their waiter approach with a basket of rolls. “I don’t like slave mutilation, and I don’t like being told what to do with my slaves.”
“Strange bedfellows opposing this bill.”
Lex laughed. “Yes, slaveowners and abolitionists. Who would have thought?”
“Life is strange.”
Lex took out a wheat roll and buttered it. “Quite a quandary for the abos.”
“Oh, working against a bill that defeats oversight of slaveowners?”
“Well, forcing owners to brand slaves isn’t what they’re looking for.”
“I can see why you wouldn’t want your bedslave branded.” At Bruce’s uneasy look Lex asked, “What is it, Bruce? Is Clark all right?”
“He’s fine, but…I’ve asked Ollie if he would be interested in taking him if I sell Clark. I’ve got him as first choice, Lex, because of your…”
“Ah, yes, my father. Well, I don’t mind being second on the list, if that’s what you’re asking.” At Bruce’s nod he inquired, “But why, Bruce? I thought he was what you wanted. You sure went after him at the auction.”
Bruce smiled ruefully. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
Lex waved his hand airily. “Spoils of war. I enjoyed the battle.” He frowned. “Being bored with him so quickly doesn’t seem like you.”
“He’s just not working out.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Lex recalled the stories surrounding Thomas Wayne and his bedslave and hoped it wasn’t a case of déjà vu.
“Well, I’m just putting out feelers.”
Bruce’s discomfort spoke of ambivalence. Lex wondered at the problems but perhaps it would all blow over. He remembered how captivated Bruce was at the auction and couldn’t believe that a man so intent on winning that bid would simply get rid of his prized slave.
Their appetizers arrived and they moved on to another topic.
& & & & & &
As they ate excellent entrees, night fell over the city, stars twinkling in the sky.
Bruce felt some guilt about being away from Gotham, but perhaps a night away would give him a fresh perspective on the Joker.
“Ah, Bruce. How nice to see you.”
Bruce looked up to see Lionel Luthor smiling at him. The man’s wild mane was magnificent, Bruce had to admit.
They shook hands and Lex said, “I didn’t know you were in town, Dad.”
“Oh, you know me. I always turn up.”
“Like a bad penny,” Lex said dryly.
Lionel laughed and asked Bruce, “I assume you are celebrating your new acquisition?”
“News travels fast on the Luthor grapevine,” Bruce said in amusement.
“We do keep our ears to the ground.”
“Have a seat, Dad,” Lex sighed.
“Thank you, son.” As Lionel sat, the waiter approached. “Just coffee, please. Aldebaran roast beans.”
“You’re a cheap date, Dad.”
“I’ll order dessert when you do.”
Bruce knew that Lionel liked to cultivate a dissolute, debauched image, and while part of that was true, he knew the steel underneath the act. Lionel was an extremely sharp and ruthless businessman and regularly poached on his son’s territory, including slaves, enjoying orgies and a long line of bondsmen-and-women, whether pleasure slaves or not.
“And where is your Prize, Bruce? Back at the hotel waiting for you?”
“Actually, back at the Manor.”
“A pity.” Lionel sipped the coffee that had just been placed before him. “You must be missing his talents.”
Protectiveness surged up in Bruce. “He’s fine.”
“Good.” Lionel took a long draught. “Far better than Harrison Caldwell’s poor slave.”
“What happened to him?” Lex asked with a frown.
“Died of his wounds.”
Lex looked grim and Bruce looked down at his plate, his hands curling into fists on his lap.
“Typical of the Caldwells, though,” Lionel continued. “I don’t understand people like that. Slaves, especially of the pleasure variety, are valuable. Why train a slave to your…tastes…and then damage them so severely?” Bruce looked up as Lionel shook his head. “I’ll admit to getting a little…enthusiastic…with my games at times, but I’ve never sent a slave to the hospital, much less buried one because of my pleasure!”
For a second, pride flickered through Lex’s eyes, then he said, “So, Dad, you believe in the care and feeding of slaves?”
“Oh, absolutely, son.” Lionel’s teeth bared in a grin. “Possessing a slave with a talented mouth and ability to take on two at once is valuable indeed.”
Bruce’s stomach fluttered and he frowned as Lionel’s eyes glittered.