Title: Rainbow’s Freedom (Justice Arc) (21/61)
Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Dick, Alfred
Series Notes: In the 23rd century, Earth is a technologically-advanced society that practices the ancient institution of slavery. Clark begins training under the Bat and secrets are uncovered as the Abolitionist Movement makes rapid progress with old and new methods. Can Freedom outrace rumors of War as the Galactic Empire rushes headlong to a new future?
The entire series can be found here.
Genres: AU, Drama, Slavefic
Rating: (this chapter): PG-13
Summary: Bruce and Dick clash.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): April 21, 2011
Date Of Posting: June 28, 2012
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2754
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: The magnificent story cover is by the wonderfully-talented ctbn60. Thanks so much, luv! :)
Protects the Truth,
But sometimes the Truth
Needs to be Free.
Ancient Amazon Saying
4th Century B.C.E.
Bruce sat in the library, brooding as he toyed with a pair of sunglasses. His desk was neat, as usual, his computer monitor showing the latest financial news. The other window held the news about the fire of two days ago, most of the stories still Blur-oriented. It gave the story ‘legs’, as newspaper reporters said. It was a bright day for February, though dark clouds were distant on the horizon.
Apt symbolism there.
He heard laughter as Dick cartwheeled past the window. Even muffled, the sound sparkled. Clark appeared next, smiling in fond amusement. His dark glasses hid his own sparkle, but Bruce knew it was there.
No matter how Veiled he is, I know.
Clark adjusted his woolen cap. The cold no longer affected him as much anymore, but he had to pretend it did. Bruce wondered what it was like for neither heat nor cold to bother him anymore.
He sighed. Nothing was ever easy.
He glanced up at the painting with his parents and younger self. They had had very different issues to deal with, especially after they sold off or gifted all the Household slaves except for Alfred.
It sure got rid of a lot of headaches for you, huh? This society of ours nearly chokes under the weight of our rules, especially when it comes to the collared.
For a brief moment, he resented the responsibility, then ruefully laughed at himself. He would happily shoulder the burdens. It meant that he had a Family who loved him. Just because they depended on him did not mean it would be different with a free Family. There was always responsibility when someone loved you and you loved them.
He sighed again. Sometimes being the responsible one meant that you had to take your lumps. He squared his shoulders as he heard Clark and Dick enter the kitchen, laughter spilling down the hall.
Alfred appeared in the doorway a few minutes later.
How does he do that? It’s like he reads my mind!
“Would you care for tea, sir?”
“Not right now, Alfred. Would you send Dick in, please, when he’s got his coat off?”
Bruce waited, still idly playing with the glasses. He watched the beams of sunlight dance across the walls as a breeze blew outside.
Voices could be heard louder down the hall as Dick called back to Clark, “Don’t eat all the cookies before I get back!” His light tread came closer to the library.
“Yes, Master?” Dick came in and stood before the desk, waiting expectantly.
Brice stood and came around the desk, handing Dick the dark glasses. “I want you to wear these whenever you’re off the estate.”
Dick took the glasses and stared at them, realization dawning on him as to what Bruce’s order meant. He thrust the glasses back at Bruce who refused to take them.
“No, Master…Bruce…I’m too young!”
Not for some people, Bruce said grimly.
Dick shook his head. “Please don’t make me. I promise I’ll try and be less noticeable. I won’t draw attention to myself.”
“Dick, you draw attention by merely being you,” Bruce said gently, laying a hand on his boy’s shoulder.
Dick looked up with tears in his eyes. “Please don’t,” he whispered brokenly.
“It’s for your own good.”
Defiance sparked in those anguished eyes. “I won’t wear them!” He flung the glasses to the floor and raced out of the library, ignoring Bruce’s order to come back.
Bruce reached down and picked up the glasses with a sigh.
Clark and Alfred looked at each other in concern as they heard Dick’s shout. They quickly left the kitchen and went to the library, seeing only Bruce standing in the middle of the room staring down at a pair of sunglasses he held.
“What happened, Bruce?” asked Clark.
“I told Dick that he would have to be Veiled.”
“Oh, Bruce.” Clark took the glasses out of his lover’s hand. He could feel his slight tremble. “When did you decide this?” He tried to keep the shock out of his voice.
“A few days ago, when we were in town.” Bruce was still staring down at his hand.
“I could see the way some men were looking at him.”
“I know, but…”
Bruce lifted his head. “He’s growing up, Clark. He’s going to be a teenager soon.”
“Yes, but wouldn’t Veiling him attract more attention?”
Bruce shrugged. “A kid wearing glasses won’t attract notice.”
“It will in the winter, or at night.”
“I can’t have him sparkling allover the place, Clark!”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Clark had to restrain laughter. Bruce had nailed it perfectly.
“Bruce, isn’t there another way?”
Bruce shook his head. “He has to start staying in the shadows as Dick, not just Robin.”
“But, sir, he is a natural sparkler, as you say,” Alfred said. “He has to subdue that as a slave and as Robin. Must he be forced to subdue himself even more?”
Bruce did not look happy. “I’m afraid he must, Alfred. He can’t go around like this anymore. Besides, I told him he didn’t have to Veil here on the estate.”
Clark curled his fingers around the glasses. “Let me talk to him.”
“All right.” Bruce sounded defeated. Alfred bustled him off to the kitchen for some hot chocolate.
Clark had a good idea where Dick had gone. He put on a hat and coat and slipped on his own dark glasses, taking Dick’s hat and coat with him.
His boots crunched on the snow as he walked through the gardens, heading for the seawall. Several yards away he saw the lone figure sitting on the wall, staring out at the sea.
His boots made a rough noise to alert Dick. Despite the boy’s uncanny sense of balance, Clark did not want to startle him and risk him tumbling onto the rocks below.
Clark stood next to Dick, his hands in his pockets. He had tucked away the glasses in his right coat pocket. He had laid the hat and coat on the seawall and Dick picked them up and put them on.
For several minutes they remained silent, until a blue-and-white striped sailboat bobbed across the waves. The lighthouse was a silent sentinel, its beacon unlit.
Finally Dick said in a low vice, “He doesn’t understand.” Clark remained supportive, Dick sensing it, and he continued, “It’s…it’s like it’s bringing home my slavery even more.” He balled his right hand into a fist and hit his thigh.
Clark caught his hand. “I know,” he said softly.
Dick looked at him with shimmering eyes. “I can’t…I have to be myself some of the time out there, Clark! I can do that as Robin sometimes but then I have to stay in the shadows so as not to give Batman away.
“I know I have to b careful as Dick Grayson, because of all the rules, but this…!” he gestured despairingly. “I know I’ll have to be Veiled someday, but not now!”
“You’ve been attracting a lot of attention lately.”
“I know.” He smiled slightly at Clark’s surprise. “I know when I’m being looked at, Clark. When you do a big act like the Flying Graysons, you get used to it. And I know when men are looking at me. I used to get those looks in the circus sometimes.” He looked down as he began to swing his legs back-and-forth. “I know what Pop was planning for me when I came of age. I was going to start lessons when I became a teenager but wouldn’t be servicing anyone until I was old enough. He even promised me that I could pick out anyone willing from the circus for my first one instead of a customer.”
Clark swallowed. He knew about what Dick’s fate might have been, but it was still uncomfortable to hear him speak of it so matter-of-factly.
I guess it’s because he was born a slave. I wasn’t and probably knew that in my subconscious even when my memory was suppressed.
“Bruce is only looking out for you.”
“He just doesn’t understand,” Dick said in a whisper.
Clark put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “I know, he never truly will, but he does the best he can. You couldn’t have a better Master.”
“He loves you.”
“I…know that, too.” A tear slid down Dick’s cheek.
Clark removed his hand from Dick’s shoulder and lifted his chin. “He isn’t doing this to hurt you. He’s trying to protect you. He does say you don’t have to be Veiled here on the estate, you know.”
Dick nodded. “I just need a little time.”
Clark smiled gently and let go of Dick’s chin. He drew the sunglasses out of his pocket and held them out. Reluctantly, Dick took them.
“Don’t toss them in the ocean,” Clark said with a smile, glad to hear Dick laugh. “Come back in when you’re ready.”
He walked back to the Manor, entering the warm kitchen, a welcome shelter after the gusting of the wind. Alfred and Bruce looked at him from their seats at the kitchen table.
“He just needs a little time.”
Bruce bit his lip. “He ran out without a coat.”
“I brought him his coat. Hat, too.” Clark removed his boots and left them on the mat, then took off his coat and hat and went out to the foyer, putting them away in the closet. He returned to the kitchen and gratefully accepted a cup of hot chocolate from Alfred.
“Are you sure he’s all right?” Bruce asked.
“Not completely. Bruce, you kind of dropped this on him all of a sudden.”
Bruce stared down at his mug. “I know, but there really is no way to ease into it.”
“I know.” Clark took a sip of his drink, appreciating the tiny marshmallows that Alfred had added. “He was just…he knows that you were going to Veil him. He just didn’t think that it would be this soon.”
Bruce’s jaw clenched. “It’s for his own good.”
“Certainly, sir, but it was a shock, that is all,” said Alfred calmly.
Bruce sighed. “You’re right, of course, Alfred.”
Clark took another sip of hot chocolate. “Are you going to punish him?”
Bruce’s mouth quirked. “If I do, it won’t be the whipping post, to be sure.”
Clark and Alfred nodded, a bit amused. The whipping post in the garden had not been used for discipline in years. In fact, it was currently being used as a rose trellis.
“I’ll see.” Bruce’s fingers curled around the handle of his mug. “Dick rarely disobeys, but I can’t let it slide every time he does.”
“Perfectly understandable, sir,” Alfred said.
Clark nodded. He hated the idea of Dick being punished, but Bruce could not allow him to think that defiance was all right.
“If he was of age I would put him in bondage,” Bruce mused. “Keeping him immobile for even a few hours would be punishment enough for Dick.”
Clark shivered a little. Bruce had never put him in full bondage, but the thought excited him.
“Paddling is out, too,” said Alfred.
Bruce nodded. “Considering that paddling is more of a pleasure slave thing.”
Clark blushed and hastily took a gulp of his drink. Alfred wisely refrained from comment, getting up and refilling everyone’s mugs.
Bruce finished his second cup and stood. “I’m going to my study. Send Dick to me when he comes in.”
Bruce left the kitchen and Clark looked worriedly at Alfred. “What do you think the punishment might be?”
“Nothing drastic, I would venture. Master Bruce is always fair with his punishments.”
“That’s true.” Clark sipped his drink. “And he gives us a lot of leeway.”
Clark cocked his head. “Alfred, can I ask you something?”
“Go right ahead.”
“How did you manage, raising Bruce after his parents died? I know you weren’t his legal guardian, but you were, in essence. How could you punish your Master when necessary?”
Alfred smiled. “Quite a conundrum, eh? Well, it took some maneuvering. Master Bruce was the de facto head of the Wayne Empire, even at eight years old. His aunt and uncle, Mistress Kathy’s parents, were appointed legal guardians. They wanted him to come to Kane Manor to live but you know how stubborn he can be.” Clark nearly choked on his drink. “So we remained here, visiting the Kanes frequently.”
“So Bruce wanted to stay here. Wasn’t it difficult, surrounded by all the memories?”
“Oh, at times, but as Master Bruce told me, he would have come back here to live when he came of age, so why not just get used to it?”
“Yep, that sounds like Bruce.”
Alfred chuckled. “Quite a force of Nature, our Master.” Clark grinned. “But as far as punishments went, it was a balancing act. When Master Bruce threatened to override me, I merely pointed out that if he would not abide by my decisions as nominal guardian, he would have to live with the Kanes. They were good people, but Master Bruce preferred to stay here. Ever since then, he took any punishment I handed out, and we were able to work things out.”
Clark laughed. He could just see a pouting Bruce being punished by Alfred. “The teenage years must have been hell.”
The kitchen door opened and a subdued Dick came in. He took off his sneakers and removed his hat and coat.
“Master Bruce is waiting for you in the study,” Clark said quietly.
Dick nodded, trudging out of the kitchen. Both Clark and Alfred sighed, hoping for the best.
Dick put his hat and coat away in the foyer closet. He walked slowly down the hall toward the study with a heavy heart. Bruce was a lenient Master, but some things he just could not let slide.
Dick quietly entered the study, standing in front of Bruce’s desk. He bowed his head and clasped his hands behind his back. If he had been of age, he would have been on his knees.
His stomach churned. Being of age was the whole argument, wasn’t it?
Bruce was working at the computer, his fingers flying over the keyboard. There was silence except for the clicking of the keys and the ticking of the grandfather clock, probably why Bruce had chosen not to use voice command. Dick had to give it to him; he knew how to set a scene.
Finally Bruce finished and sent his e-mail. His chair swiveled and he said, “Look at me.”
Dick obeyed, relieved not to see any anger in Bruce’s eyes but he had no doubt that he was facing his Master, not the man who felt like a father to him.
“Have you calmed down?”
Dick swallowed. “Yes, Master.”
Bruce studied him for a moment, then said, “I’m sorry for springing all that on you without warning.” He sighed. “I should have prepared you.”
Dick silently agreed, but carefully kept that thought out of his expression. He was in enough trouble as it was.
“I still want you to wear the glasses and anything else to conceal you as much as possible when we leave the estate.” No reaction from Dick. “Dick, I know why you must be upset. You weren’t expecting this for a couple of years at least, right?” Dick nodded. “I just think we have to start earlier.” Bruce cocked his head. “Would you like to say something?”
Dick took a deep breath. “I still don’t like it, but I will obey your orders, Master.”
“Good. Now as for your punishment…” Dick tensed but knew he did not have to worry about whipping. “…you’ll be grounded from patrol for the next few nights.”
Dick almost protested but clamped his mouth shut. He had pushed the limits already today.
“All right, go help Alfred.”
“Yes, Master.” Dick turned to leave but turned back. “Thank you, Bruce,” he said softly, and Bruce smiled as Dick smiled back quickly before leaving the study.
Bruce felt better after this little exchange. He had wanted to let down the Master façade but felt he had to keep it up to establish discipline. As usual, Dick had found a way to circumvent it in a charming way.
That boy is something else.
He returned to his chair to resume working.