Title: Rainbow’s Freedom (Justice Arc) (34/61)
Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Brendan, Dick, Jim Gordon, Barbara Gordon, Brad Stryker
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): G
Summary: Bruce visits Jim at the GCPD. Jim’s also having a bad day.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): June 30, 2011
Date Of Posting: September 10, 2012
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2367
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: The magnificent story cover is by the wonderfully-talented ctbn60. Thanks so much, luv! :)
With the sting
As the storm approaches.
Edna St. Vincent Millaise
Clark unconsciously echoed Alfred’s lament as Brendan drove them into the city. In the back seat of the limousine, the tension was thick, Clark uncomfortable. His usual ally, Dick, was not his sunny self today, which could mean trouble, especially with Bruce in a bad mood.
Clark kept his counsel, mindful of Alfred’s admonition to be the mediator. He wished that he could just come out and voice his misgivings, but he knew that would be a mistake. Neither Bruce nor Dick was in the mood for rational thought right now.
He could have refused to go with them, but he had committed to Bruce as his slave, and that meant obeying him. He could argue or request or anything else, but he was aware of the consequences for disobedience, just as Dick was. And Bruce was in no mood to be reasoned with today.
As the limousine drew closer to Gotham, Clark was not even sure that he wanted to get into anything with Bruce today. The Hawkins murders had shaken them all, and his usual source of support was in a snarling-bad mood. He really could not blame Bruce. When he had heard the news this morning, a lump had settled in his gut and was still there, making him nauseous. He was off his game and he knew it.
Fortunately, even with the tension, everyone was keeping silent. Dick stared out the tinted window while Bruce brooded, staring at nothing. Even Brendan had looked frazzled when he had brought the car around.
The ride into Gotham was uneventful. The traffic seemed light though Clark knew that could be deceptive. GCPD hovercars kept an eye on the ground traffic, as private citizens were not allowed to take to the skies except for public transport.
Clark knew quite about the GCPD patrol routes, as he had to be careful to avoid them on his patrols. He alighted from the limousine when they reached their destination, glancing up at the sky.
Dick followed him out, adjusting his glasses, and Bruce emerged from the limousine last. With a terse, “Wait here,” to Brendan, he strode into the building, the patina of age worn on the walls and floors. Officers and detectives hurried on their important business, the atmosphere more highly-charged now that the Joker was on the loose and on a killing spree.
Clark could hear the frenzied conversations throughout the building. The Gotham police knew that they were under scrutiny until the Joker could be captured. There were even disparaging remarks about the two Dynamic Duos that regularly patrolled the city, though Clark thought that was absurd. The superheroes could definitely help, but the primary responsibility for protecting the people of Gotham was on the police. Reliance on costumed heroes could be a detriment if not handled carefully.
As they approached Commissioner Gordon’s office on the third floor, Clark could hear Jim arguing with Barbara. No one else could hear them, and he was about to shut down his hearing when Jim snapped, “And having you hunting for the Joker makes my hair turn grayer than it already is!”
“No! Barbara, do your father a favor and tell Batwoman she’ll have to go this one alone.”
Barbara’s answer was lost as Bruce rapped sharply on the door.
“Come in!” growled Jim.
It must be something in the air, Clark thought ruefully.
Bruce entered the office with a slight frown. Dick saw Barbara and hesitated, then resolutely followed Bruce over the threshold, Clark bringing up the rear.
Barbara smiled at them, especially Dick, and surprise registered on her face as she saw the sunglasses worn indoors. Dick flushed and lowered his gaze.
Clark studied Barbara from behind his own dark glasses to cover his shock. He should have guessed, really. An athletic redhead with the same body type? He shook his head ruefully as Bruce said, “Not a good morning is it, Jim?”
Jim scowled. “No.” He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Bruce folded his arms. “The Joker has gone to ground, hasn’t he?”
Jim nodded and replaced his glasses. “He has.”
The silence hung heavily in the room, no one sure how to break it. Finally Jim said, “You had better beef up your security at the Manor, Bruce. The Hawkins had excellent security, and it still didn’t matter.”
Bruce shifted slightly. “Yes, Brad Stryker and his people are the best. They’ll re-consider our set-up and make improvements.”
Clark knew that Stryker was on the detail guarding them right now. After his kidnapping, Bruce had gone crazy with security. The Manor was well-guarded, and no one took a step off the estate without protection.
Of course, it was ironic that now he needed no protection, Clark thought, but everyone else did.
And even with powers, people get killed.
The depression grew heavier, and Clark wished that he could fly away, feel the warmth of the sun on his face and its rays soak into his body, feel the power surge through him and leave this benighted city of gloom.
And that thought brought guilt, because his loved ones could not do that. Yet he could not help feel chafed under his restraints and for the briefest of seconds, resented Bruce.
“Barb, why don’t you take Bruce’s slaves out? I want to speak to him.”
Barbara ushered them out, Bruce indicating with a hand gesture that they should go with her.
Out in the busy squadroom the officers and detectives barely gave them a glance, which suited Clark just fine. He wanted no conflicts or other trouble, not today.
Dick was particularly skittish, his limbs moving with nervous energy. Clark gently put a hand on his shoulder, trying to quell the boy’s anxiety.
“Would you like something to eat or drink?” Barbara asked.
“No, we’re fine. Unless you’d like something, Dick?” Clark asked.
“No”, he mumbled, keeping his eyes down.
Barbara exchanged a look with Clark.
Bless her intelligence, he thought.
“Well, we could use the computer to get in a little tutoring,” she suggested.
“That sounds fine,” Clark said, squeezing Dick’s shoulder. He walked over to Brad Stryker, whose gray eyes were curious as Clark said, “I need some air.”
Brad nodded. He used his cellphone and contacted Sam Elkins. “I’ll be with you.”
Clark nodded. He went back to Dick and Barbara and told them he was going outside for a short time.
“Who’s on me?” Dick asked.
“Okay.” Dick’s hand grabbed his wrist. “Be careful.”
Clark smiled. “You bet.” He joined Brad and they took the elevator to the ground floor.
Outside in the fresh air, Clark felt a little better. Even though it was Gotham air, it was fresh (sort of) and cold, which suited Clark just fine. He liked bracing-cold air. It stimulated his senses, and he never had to worry about frostbite.
The wind blew down the street, ruffling his hair, and he pulled a knit cap on. He might not be bothered by the cold, but he had to pretend to be.
Brad turned up the collar of his dark coat, his hands encased in gray gloves. He looked like a successful businessman, but underneath his coat was his gun. As private security, he was one of the few non-government professions allowed a license to carry.
“So, Mr. Wayne is pretty torn up over the Hawkins.”
Clark looked at his companion. Observation was his stock-in-trade, of course.
“Yeah, it really shook him.” And me.
“The security has tightened around the Manor.”
“I know. Thank you.”
“It’s my job.”
“I know, but I’m still grateful.”
Brad smiled softly. “You’re welcome.”
Clark thought about Barbara. Should he tell Bruce about her? But wasn’t she entitled to her privacy as they were?
Clark realized that Brad was talking to him. He smiled at the security man’s discomfort in not being able to call him by name.
“You can call me Klax’el.”
“All right, Klax’el, let’s get on the same page here. You were daydreaming.”
“Eh, no big deal. I just wanted to know if your Master was planning anything with Commissioner Gordon.”
“He might. I don’t know any particulars, though.”
Brad grunted in acknowledgment, his eyes scanning the street.
“Is it better to take a walk than just stand here?” Clark asked.
“Yeah. This is too much ducks-in-a-shooting-gallery for me.”
They walked down the street, Clark just as alert. He had no desire to be the target of a kidnapping again. He could not openly use his powers, so things could get complicated.
He liked Brad Stryker as a companion. Even though the man was not chatty, the silence between them was comfortable. The security man was someone with the gift of putting people at ease, which Clark appreciated.
He also appreciated that Brad Stryker seemed at ease with him. Some people had no clue as how to act around slaves. Some were classically arrogant, some were cruel, while others felt guilty and tried hard not to be offensive, sometimes making things worse.
Brad Stryker seemed to be a man comfortable in his own skin. Clark was about to go back to pondering the question of Barbara when Brad growled, “Damn, the media can be scum.”
Clark saw the television in the window of an electronics store, the headlines screaming about the Hawkins murders. Brad took out his cellphone and called up the news channel.
“It’s made the national news.” He scowled.
“Probably the planet-wide news, too.”
“Yeah, guess The Daily Planet lives up to its name. It’s website has a big story, even better than The Gotham Gazette’s.”
Clark read the content and had to agree.
“Well, looks like Gotham’s in the news again.” Brad shook his head. “It never ends here, does it?”
Clark grinned ruefully. “Pretty much.”
Brad snorted and flipped his phone shut. “You ready to go back?”
“Can we spend five more minutes walking?”
As they walked, Clark asked, “You’re not from Gotham?”
“No, I’m from Boston.”
“Wonder Woman and Green Lantern’s town.”
Brad smiled. “Yeah, crime has gone down there a lot, I hear. I’ve got a few buddies in the police department.”
“So security work appealed to you?”
Brad shrugged. “It’s what I’m good at, so it seemed like a logical job choice.”
“And the money’s better?”
Brad’s smile grew predatory. “Much better.”
“But why Gotham instead of Boston?”
“Bruce Wayne’s offer was too good to pass up.”
“Your Master can be quite persuasive when he wants to be.”
Clark smiled. “Very much.” He squinted as a strong gust of wind blew. “I’m good to go back now.”
They walked back in comfortable silence and once inside Police Headquarters, took the elevator to the third floor.
Once they reached the squadroom, Dick hurried over. “Brace yourself. Br…the Master is livid.”
“What happened?” Clark asked anxiously.
“You took off without telling him.”
Clark frowned. “But I was with Brad.”
“Yeah, and ordinarily, that’d be fine, but today’s he’s jumpier than a cat on a hot tin roof.”
Clark would have laughed at that description if the situation was not so serious. “All right, where is he?”
“In Dad’s office,” Barbara said as he came up to them. Her expression of sympathy made Clark even more nervous. Squaring his shoulders, he headed toward the office.
Bruce turned and scowled as he saw Clark enter the office. Jim’s expression mirrored his daughter’s and he said, “I’ll be back in fifteen minutes,” and left the two men alone.
Clark almost shifted from foot-to-foot as he stood there, instinctively bowing his head and crossing his wrists behind his back. He wondered if he should kneel when his chin was abruptly grasped and lifted up, his eyes meeting the stormy eyes of his Master and lover.
“Don’t do that again,” Bruce ground out.
Bruce’s fingers tightened. “Don’t.” He dropped his hand and paced. “I sent you out to the squadroom, Clark, not the streets of Gotham!”
“I was with Brad Stryker.”
Bruce glared at him. “And Stryker is the best, but I don’t like the risk.”
“Bruce…Master, you know things are different now.”
“Not so you can let everyone know it.”
“I know, but…”
Bruce put a hand up. “No, nothing. You’re not so vulnerable as you used to be, but if you were attacked out on the street you couldn’t reveal your powers without jeopardizing yourself or the rest of us.”
Trying to push down pangs of guilt, Clark protested, “I know, Master, but surely I’m allowed to take a walk! Otherwise if it’s too dangerous to do that we shouldn’t be off the estate!”
Bruce glared at him. “Clark, we can’t work if you’re going to be…”
“What, giving you reasons instead of being a doormat?”
“Careful.” Bruce’s eyes glinted dangerously.
“Master, you’ve never wanted someone without intelligence. You’ve always wanted someone to point out to you…”
“…when I’m wrong?” Bruce’s tone was silken.
Clark flushed with anger and a little shame. He wasn’t exactly exhibiting proper slave decorum. Lover or not, Bruce was still his Master. He had chosen to stay his slave, after all, and that meant he had to abide by the rules.
“I beg forgiveness, Master.”
He dropped to his knees, assuming the traditional position. His heart pounded as he waited for Bruce’s reaction.
Bruce’s footsteps sounded quietly across the room, and Clark’s chin was grasped, his head tilted up.
“I’m sorry,” Bruce said.
Clark smiled and nuzzled Bruce’s hand once he released his grip.
Bruce sighed. “It hasn’t been a good day. Come on, let’s collect our grumpy Squire and go home.”
Clark smiled again and got to his feet, Bruce helping him. Their eyes met and Bruce lightly caressed Clark’ cheek, smiling at each other. Bruce released him and they left the office.
Out in the squadroom, Dick and Barbara looked relieved while Bruce looked guilty. Clark said, “Thank you, Miss Barbara, and subtly herded his family into the elevator, Brad Stryker smirking as he joined them.