Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Dick, ‘Pop’ Haly
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): PG-13
Summary: As Bruce finalizes plans to take Dick home, he learns about the dark underside of circus life for slaves.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): August 15, 2007
Date Of Posting: April 6, 2008
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1274
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Gypsies, tramps and thieves
We’d hear it from the people of the town
They’d call us gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down.
“Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves”
ALL THAT GLITTERS
Bruce strode grimly through the backlot of trailers, Clark right behind him. The circus folk were talking with each other in hushed tones, moving out of Bruce’s way as they instinctively recognized royalty in their bones.
The two men stopped in front of one trailer, Bruce opening the door and stepping inside with Clark at his heels.
The trailer was filled with gaily-colored art, pillows, and furniture, a home warm and inviting.
Sitting up against a built-in couch was the slumped figure of a young boy, head bowed on his elbows that rested on his drawn-up knees, still dressed in his costume. The yellow cape curled around the small body that shook slightly.
Bruce swallowed, then knelt in front of the boy, Clark right beside him. Bruce reached out and touched the boy’s hair, and the child looked up.
Bruce could feel the shock of recognition deep in his bones as he looked into those tear-brimmed eyes. Recognition of a tortured soul who was suddenly an orphan in one cruel stroke of fate.
“Child, I’ve just bought you from Mr. Haly.” He smoothed the silky hair. “Everything will be taken care of.”
The child’s lower lip trembled. This time a look flittered through his eyes that Bruce did not recognize as he lowered his arm.
The child reached out and touched that arm, lowering his eyes. With a tear-choked voice, he said, “I’m…here to…to serve, Master.” He began to struggle to his knees.
For a millisecond, Bruce was puzzled, then realized with a start that the child was trying to pay homage in the depths of his grief. He grasped the small hand and lifted the boy’s chin up.
“No, no, child, you are to be my Squire, but you need not worry about that right now.”
“But…a private performance is what people want…”
Bruce felt a chill go through him. “No need tonight.” He took a deep breath. “Trust me and my Prize…” he looked at Clark, who had instinctively removed his dark glasses “…Clark…who serves me well.”
The eyes, a deep sapphire, shimmered with a question.
Softly, Bruce answered, “I lost my parents, too. They were gunned down right in front of my eyes.”
The child blinked, then suddenly thrust himself into Bruce’s arms.
Startled but touched, Bruce held him close, lightly rocking, glancing over at Clark, who was close to tears himself.
After a few moments, Bruce gently disengaged, asking quietly, “Your name is Richard, correct?”
A nod, then a small voice said, “My family and friends call me Dick.”
Bruce smiled slightly. “Well, Dick, I need to finalize some paperwork. Clark will help you pack a bag. Tell him what else you want brought to the Manor and I’ll send someone for it tomorrow.”
“Take him to the limo when you’re done,” Bruce said to Clark, who nodded.
Bruce stood, and on his way out he looked back, Clark and Dick already in an embrace.
Outside, he took a deep breath. Stars twinkled in the clear sky, the rotating red lights of a police car reflecting off the Big Top in the distance.
He began walking slowly to the circus owner’s trailer. To think that grief-stricken child had felt compelled to…! He let the anger push out his own tragic memories, his fists tight by his sides.
At the owner’s trailer he let the haughty mantle of the Prince of Gotham settle fully around him like a cloak, then entered.
Elias Haly sat at a cluttered desk, circus posters and odd curios scattered around. The trailer was in darkness, the only light emanating from an ancient gooseneck lamp on the desk.
Haly was a stout, thickset man whose paunch was deceptive as to the muscle underneath. His arms were corded muscle, a thick neck supporting a large head, dark hair slicked back as bushy eyebrows knitted in a frown. He smoked a Cuban cigar, dark eyes hooded.
Bruce took out his checkbook, writing a number, and ripped the check, holding it out. Haly took it, barely registering his surprise.
“Nice sum, Lord Wayne.”
“That covers the boy’s parents as well. I plan to bury them in the proper section of my family’s plot.” Bruce put away the checkbook. “All their possessions, too.”
“Very well. The police are asking us to stay a few more days.”
“I’ll have someone over tomorrow.”
“We’ll be here.” Haly took out a flask from his desk drawer. “Before you finalize anything, you have to know that the kid has a genetic disease. He needs a shot to keep his white cells from going crazy.”
A knot of fear formed in Bruce’s stomach. Another slave with illness? Could he take that on?
Memory of the child’s haunted face was all the answer he needed.
“He just took the shot this morning, so you’re good for another year.”
“Yeah, that’s all he needs. I’ll send you the stuff you need before the next shot is due. I got connections.”
“I’d like to know those connections.” He didn’t want to rely on Haly for this precious medicine.
“Sorry, m’lord. My connections will only deal with circus folk.”
Bruce frowned. He crossed his arms, his expression becoming more severe. “How often do you loan your property out for private performances?”
Haly leaned back in his chair. “Special performances are given to those who pay well. First night of every new town we come to.” Haly drank from the flask. “People like the glitter, the excitement.”
Bruce ground out, “He’s only eight.”
Haly nodded. “His birthday was last fall.” He leaned forward. “Look, we do a good business, but how do you think an anachronism like this keeps going? We need a steady side income.” He sat back again. “I’m not doing anything illegal. The special performers who go beyond their circus skills are not underlegals. As for Dick, he’s an amusing diversion, a warm-up act. He takes care of the customers while they wait for their special performers to be set up for them by bringing them food and drinks and doing a few acrobatic tricks. He’s bright, charming, and amusing, as you’ll find out.”
Bruce’s fists clenched and unclenched.
Haly’s eyes glittered in the darkness. “It’s an old circus tradition to offer beautiful bodies. You know the old saying: they call us gypsies, tramps and thieves…and worse, but the men of every town? They always come around and lay their money down.” Haly took another drink. “When Dick came of age, he would have been my star attraction for the extra-private performances.”
Bruce turned on his heel. “I’m taking the boy with me tonight.”
Bruce paused but didn’t turn around. “Speak.”
“You may find what I do beneath your standards, but am I that different from you? Does that pretty Prize who follows you around have any choice when he comes to your bed?”
Bruce stayed frozen for a space of seconds, then left the trailer, shutting the door with a little more force than necessary.
He stalked toward the limousine, Brendan slipping into the driver’s seat and starting the engine when he saw him approach. Bruce opened the back passenger door.
Dick was asleep in the curve of Clark’s arm, the tear-stained face resting against his chest. Clark said softly, “He’s exhausted, poor thing.”
Bruce climbed in and shut the door, ordering Brendan, “Take us home.”