Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, John/Mary, Dick
Series Notes: In the 23rd century, Earth is a technologically-advanced society that practices the ancient institution of slavery. As Bruce and Clark try and adjust to being lovers as well as Master and slave, on a warm spring night a new member of the Wayne Household is added: a little boy whom Bruce sadly identifies with. Dick Grayson further pushes Bruce along the path of Abolitionism as the child brings further Light into the Manor. The entire series can be found here.
Genres: Drama, AU
Rating: (this chapter): R
Summary: Bruce and Clark attend Opening Night at Haly’s Circus.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): August 14, 2007
Date Of Posting: April 4, 2008
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1138
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
In a little boy
Emily Adams Cutler
“Yellow Roses And Other Poems”
UNDER THE BIG TOP
People flocked to the circus grounds, colorful in their spring clothes and happy faces. Red-and-yellow striped tents dominated the center of the grounds, excitement crackling through the air.
Clark paused at a poster by the ticket booth. “I thought slaves didn’t have last names?”
“They don’t.” Bruce looked at the poster advertising The Flying Graysons, the mother, father, and son in mid-air with bright smiles on their faces, collars and manacles sparkling in the sun. “But in show business, a slave act will use a surname. It’s easier, though of course legally there is no family name.”
Bruce presented the tickets and gave one stub to Clark after they entered the grounds. “Stay close to me.”
Clark nodded as he pocketed the stub.
They both wore jeans, Clark in a yellow shirt open at the neck and his sleeves rolled up on this pleasant evening. Bruce wore a dark-blue turtleneck sweater, his hair shaggy. Casual and relaxed, he strolled toward the midway, Clark beside him. In a crowd like this it was permitted for a slave to be right beside his Master instead of behind him.
“Who are those people, Master?”
Clark pointed to two serious-looking men and a woman in suits heading for the animal cages.
“Oh, they’re from the SPCA. They’re here to make sure the animals are well-treated.”
The smells of fried dough and sausages wafted on the air, hawkers plying games of skill and chance as Bruce and Clark walked the midway. Bruce was able to resist the games, but stopped by a booth where sausages sizzled on the grill. He bought two, he and Clark topping their sausages with mustard and relish and enjoying the snack. Bruce also bought cotton candy, popcorn, and soft drinks, and they headed over to the Big Top, filing in and finding seats on the wooden bleachers halfway up.
The show started fifteen minutes later, and the ringmaster introduced the parade of performers: clowns, stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, knife-throwers, trick riders, aerialists, the strongmen, elephants, lions, tigers and bears. All wore glittering, gaudy costumes and waved to the appreciative crowd.
The clowns kept everyone entertained as the first act was set up, Clark taking in all the sights, sounds and smells eagerly.
“Peanuts! Getcha peanuts here!”
Bruce signaled the vendor, who handed over two bags of peanuts after receiving the money. Plastic money wasn’t practical at the circus, so Bruce had stocked up on the old-fashioned paper and coins.
The first act featured the trick riders, and Clark was highly impressed by the skill and daring of the riders, performing backflips and handstands on the moving horses.
Clark wished he could be as graceful as these acrobats. He often felt big, awkward and clumsy, even illness aside. He was good at the trapeze routine he and Bruce practiced, but he wished he was better.
He sighed, the sound covered by loud applause. He was being silly, of course. Bruce loved him, an astonishment in itself, and he would have to believe in the power of that love.
As the trick riders finished, the clowns did their act, even Bruce smiling at the silliness. Clark cracked open a peanut, discarding the shell to join the others scattered on the floor. Clark felt like a litterbug but it was expected and the mess would be cleaned up.
The smell of freshly-roasted peanuts mingled with popcorn and sausages, reminding Clark of the Halloween vendors in Gotham.
It’s like Halloween here, all glittery and costumed and magical with illusion. He cracked another shell. All so happy and entertaining. I wonder if there’s a darkness here behind-the-scenes.
Laughter rewarded the clowns, who scurried off and the elephants were paraded in, their silver-and-gold harnesses gleaming as they moved. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds winked as the huge pachyderms moved with a surprisingly-light step.
Clark admired the strength and majesty of these creatures, smiling as a wide-eyed child a few seats over pointed excitedly.
There was a definite buzz in the crowd, the ringmaster adding his patter. The elephants let out a distinctive cry as they raised their trunks.
A kaleidoscope of acts followed, always interspersed with the clowns. Bruce and Clark exchanged grins.
Then came the premier act as the lights dimmed and the spotlights shone on the trapeze.
“These are the best,” Bruce said enthusiastically. “We can learn a lot, but also appreciate the beauty and skill.”
Clark nodded, intensely interested in people flying for a living.
“Ladies and gentlemen, The Flying Graysons!”
Applause rolled around the Big Top, the elite act showcased in the yellow spotlight.
The family was handsome, the father a well-muscled brunette, the mother’s reddish-brown tresses tumbling over her shoulders, and their dark-haired son small but energetic between them. All wore sparkling costumes of red-and-gold with striations of kelly-green. Long, yellow capes finished the ensembles, high golden collars obscuring their slave collars, but their manacles glittered as they waved, smiles on their faces.
Clark sensed that the smiles were genuine, not just plastered on for entertainment purposes.
“Watch as the Flying Graysons perform their death-defying routine…without a net!”
The crowd gasped, thrilled and excited as the applause grew louder.
All three shed their capes and swung out in warm-ups. The family was grace personified as they flew through the air, confident and smiling as they played with each other.
Clark was fascinated by the ease with which they flew, even the boy adding dash and flair. His smile was the brightest that Clark had ever seen, and happiness radiated from him as he swung and flipped, hanging upside down. He exchanged a smile with Bruce, who was equally captivated.
After a few more minutes, the boy and mother returned to the platform, the boy putting his cape back on.
John swung out and Mary left the platform, swinging back and forth, their rhythm matching as they calibrated their timing. Clark remembered doing the same with Bruce, a perfect sync that was poetry in motion and essential to successful trapeze work.
Mary let go of the trapeze, flipping over three times as the crowd gasped in delight. John caught her and just as the applause was loudest, the ropes jerked, then snapped.
John and Mary Grayson plummeted down as screams filled the air. They hit the ground with a sickening thud, a bone-chilled silence filling the tent as small puffs of dust wisped up, blood beginning to seep into the sawdust.
The silence weighed down as heavily as if it was a heat wave pressing down on the crowd, then it was broken by a small voice from high up on the platform, crying, “No! Mom! Dad!” and then heartbroken sobs cascaded down to splash into every listener’s heart.