Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Dick, Alfred, Ollie/Dinah, Elena, 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: The funeral.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): August 26, 2007
Date Of Posting: April 26, 2008
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1803
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
To say goodbye.
To ask why?
“The Poetry Of Grief”
STRIKE THE TENTS
Dick awoke to the sound of rain drumming on the roof. He slipped out of bed and went to the window, peeking out.
The rain was coming down, light but steady. The ocean was gray/green, whitecaps bobbing as the waves tumbled. Dick’s face wore a stoic expression, letting the curtains slide back to block out the gray light.
Dick washed and dressed in his one dress suit, which Alfred had assured him was appropriate. He headed downstairs, his stomach knotted. Everyone was already in the kitchen.
“Would you like some cereal, Dick?” Alfred asked.
Dick nodded. Maybe cereal would be okay on his stomach. As he sat, Clark placed a small cup of strawberries next to his glass of orange juice.
“Good morning to you all.” Dick was trying hard to be proper and polite, though all he really wanted to do was scream.
Clark squeezed his shoulder. “Take your time. We don’t have to be at the church ‘til ten.”
Dick nodded, staying quiet as conversation flowed around him.
“Dinah’s opening Sherwood Florist here in Gotham,” Bruce said.
“Is this her first expansion outside of Star City?” Alfred added some strawberries to his cereal.
“Yes. She’s hoping to open a shop in Metropolis, too.”
“How long has Ms. Lance been in business, Master?” asked Clark.
“Three years, I think. She’s very successful in Star City, of course. She and Ollie are partners in the business, though Ollie is a silent partner. He provided start-up money and has seen an excellent return on his investment.” Bruce sipped his coffee. “I plan to send some business her way.”
Dick felt his stomach calm as he listened to the florist talk. The calm discussion reminded him of many mornings around the breakfast table with his parents. His father would then start telling jokes and his mother would laugh, and he would feel so happy….
He blinked rapidly, his throat tightening. He waited until his throat relaxed, then finished his cereal.
After brushing his teeth upstairs, he sat in the library on the windowseat, watching the rain. He then asked permission to go out in the garden, donning a slicker.
The air was cool, the rain slightly cold on his face. The flowers wept, bending under the weight of the water. Muddy ground squished under his boots as he wandered around the neat English boxwood and arborvitae.
Dick kept walking, absorbing the sound of the waves and wind, the color of the spring flowers, the touch of the rain on his skin. Better to lose himself in this garden than think about what was going to happen later.
Dick stopped in front of a rich, purple bourgainvilla, bowing his head, the rain running down his face.
Mingled with a few tears?
Dick allowed the ache in his chest to blossom.
A gust of wind blew, whipping the rain into his face.
A hand gently rested on his shoulder.
“Come inside now, Dick.”
Alfred’s kindness washed over Dick like the rain. Dick choked back a sob, then Alfred’s arms came around him, one hand rubbing his back as Dick held on tight.
& & & & & &
The church was pretty, full of stained glass and statues. What amazed Dick was seeing so many of his fellow circus folk. Touched, he tried to acknowledge each one, Master Bruce leading him to the front pew with a hand on his shoulder.
A strange calm settled over Dick. His eyes were dry and he viewed the proceedings almost dispassionately. Rain pattered on the church ceiling, then sonorous organ music swelled. He felt little pain even as the caskets were brought in. He smiled a little at a few jokes in the eulogy, given by Brad the elephant trainer.
He watched the caskets borne out of the church and went with Master Bruce, Clark and Alfred to the limousine driven by Brendan, which contained only silence except for the rain on the roof as they rode to the cemetery. Each man seemed lost in his own thoughts, but the Master seemed far away, his body tense. Clark put a hand on his leg, the Prince coming back from a very sad place.
The limousine rode behind the hearse through the ornate iron gates of Gotham Cemetery. It was located on land close to the Wayne estate, so Dick knew that it would not be a long walk to visit his parents.
Black umbrellas ringed the graves. This section of the cemetery contained the graves of generations of Wayne slaves. The brand-new headstone was light-gray Vermont marble, containing the names JOHN AND MARY GRAYSON and their birth and death dates. Dick felt his throat constrict. Master Bruce had given them the honor of a last name. He slipped his hand into Bruce’s.
The caskets were laid by the freshly-dug earth, magnificent sprays of yellow and red roses framed by greenery laid on each coffin, the leaves and petals quivering-bright with moisture. As the priest intoned words that held no meaning, the rain lightened to a drizzle. Dick was glad to feel numb, otherwise he might have to acknowledge the hollowness inside him. As the priest wound down, the rain stopped, the sun peeking out behind the clouds.
Dick saw a blond man and brunette woman on the edge of the crowd. Both were expensively-dressed. Lord Queen and his Lady!
When the service was over Dick accepted condolences from some of his circus friends. Master Bruce, Clark and Alfred were next to him.
Bruce disappeared after the last of the mourners drifted toward their waiting cars. Dick took one last look at the caskets, said a prayer, and slowly turned away.
As he, Alfred, and Clark headed for the limousine, the Master appeared from another section of the cemetery.
Of course. His own parents’ graves.
The ride back was silent but Dick squeezed Bruce’s hand, a little shy at his boldness. The squeeze back let him know it was all right.
& & & & & &
The Haly Circus guests, slave and free, were amazed at the grandeur of Wayne Manor. At first they were subdued, but gradually the reception took on a lighter cast, fond stories told and laughter trilling out as liquid diamonds glittered in the garden after the rain.
Dick even smiled as some of the stories were told, and he felt a little less numb.
He also watched his Master. You could learn a lot about a man from the way he treated slaves, as his dad always used to say.
Master Bruce was courteous, as most of his guests were manacled, something that rarely if ever occurred. The unusual situation of the majority of Dick’s fellow circus folk being slaves had created this social oddity. In fact, the Lord of the Manor would have been well within his rights to invite only the freemen to the reception.
The hierarchy was in place: when the buffet of cold meats, salads, fruit, and small cakes was announced as ready by Alfred, either the freemen or slaves serving their Masters and Mistresses were first, but after that, the slaves were allowed to serve themselves.
And as Dick enjoyed the stories about his parents, he kept his eye on his new Master and saw him receive the respect and deference that was his due, but that he actually spoke with some of the slaves. In fact, he spoke far more coolly to Pop Haly, Dick puzzled as to why. Alfred and Clark were fulfilling special requests by the freemen, and during one moment, Master Bruce sought him out and their eyes met, a slight smile quirking the Prince’s face.
Dick recognized the title of Prince deep in his bones. Let the American public believe that in the 23rd century, it was merely an honorific. Dick knew better.
“Oh, Dick, this place is like a palace!” Elena, the redheaded trick rider, was very excited, her green eyes sparkling.
“It’s different from the circus, all right.”
A sad little smile crossed Elena’s face. “You know I’m so sorry about your mom and dad, but I’m sure they’d approve of Prince Wayne as your new Master.”
Dick nodded. All the circus folk recognized his Master’s bloodline.
She rested a hand on his arm, her golden manacles glinting. “We’ll keep track of you on the society pages. I mean, as his Squire, you’ll be in the background of a lot of pictures.”
“I guess so.” He wondered just how often he would be performing duties in public.
Wouldn’t Clark often fulfill that role? He looked around for the older slave and saw Clark talking to Brad. Suddenly, Clark staggered, a hand to his head. Immediately, his Master was by his side, helping him to sit on a chair.
“Wha…? Oh, I’m sorry, Elena.”
“It’s okay. I know this can’t be easy for you.”
Dick nodded slowly. “Thank you, Elena.”
She squeezed his hand.
& & & & & &
Gradually, the reception wound down, but not before Bruce called him over and said, “Dick, this is Lord Queen and his Lady Love, Ms. Dinah Lance.”
Dick knew that use of the term ‘Lady Love’ meant that Dinah was officially Lady of the Queen Household, but not by marriage. He bowed and murmured, “Thank you for your attendance, Lord Queen, m’lady.”
The blond man gently lifted his chin. “We are sorry for your loss, Dick.”
Dinah’s face radiated warmth even as sympathy shone from her blue eyes.
“Thank you, m’lord.”
He sensed no mockery in the two of them, merely genuine concern.
As the circus folk prepared to depart, Pop Haly came up to him.
“Dickie, you’ve found a good place here.”
“I know, Pop.” Dick looked at the only Master he had ever known.
Haly sighed. “We’re all going to miss your mom and dad, kid.”
Dick’s throat tightened. “Thanks, Pop.”
Haly rested a hand on Dick’s shoulder. “You were always our bright star.” He ruffled Dick’s hair. “You’ll do fine.”
Dick suddenly became aware of Bruce glowering at Pop from a few feet away. As Pop began to lift his hand, Dick grasped it.
“Thank you, Pop.”
For a moment, Dick was uncertain of what he read in the man’s eyes. Regret?
“Like I said, you’ll do fine, kid.”
Dick hugged him tightly, Pop caressing his hair, then the man gently disengaged, smiled, and walked away. All the circus folk climbed into cars and vans, driving away, leaving Dick to watch his old life disappear down the driveway while Bruce stood next to him, a hand on his shoulder, and Clark and Alfred on the other side.
His new life had begun.