By calling into darkness [Source]
February 17, 2007
Disclaimers: Not even close to mine.
Spoilers: Vague ones for very old storylines.
Summary: The boy is not here for him.
Ratings Note/Warnings: Contains subtext some readers
may find to be disturbing.
Author's Note: Part of the Human
Things That Fly
series. Takes place well after The source
of light, but
the other stories in the series aren't strictly necessary
in order to follow this one.
Acknowledgments: Much love to the usual suspects,
especially to Betty who held my hand through a
traumatic edit.1 Sage introduced us to that
lovely poem, too.
Bruce is not --
Bruce is aware of the fact that the boy -- Dick -- believes, in
a place within himself which not even Jason can touch, that
Bruce doesn't care for him. It may be something slightly
different -- perhaps that Bruce cares but doesn't *like*
him -- but the gist remains the same. This is something he
regrets -- more than he knows, even, how to *consider* --
but he's never quite been able to imagine how it could be
Jason taught him, years before, the extent of his
weaknesses. He's shown Bruce fears he could never
imagine, and led Bruce away from them with ease.
Bruce had been watching the boy from a distance since the
very first time (not the only time, but nearly) Jason had
mentioned him. When Jason had told him about an even
brighter, more talented young man in another circus, he
hadn't been so entranced that he could not believe. Still,
he had *only* watched from a distance, a vague sense
within himself that if there was ever anything which could
even be interpreted as 'time enough,' he would do
everything in his power to make sure Jason could see
the boy again, talk to him and...
Whatever he wished --
Whatever he wished.
If Bruce had believed the boy to be dangerous in any way
(or, of course, *in* danger), he would certainly have been
paying more -- closer -- attention. He would have discovered
the pressures Haly had been under as he moved his circus
from town to town, and he would have --
Many things would have happened differently -- of course he
understands this. To a certain extent it's somewhat
frightening how difficult it is to track out the possibilities. He
can imagine saving the boy's parents. He can't imagine not
bringing him home. Jason had been --
The devastation he'd felt --
Bruce is not naive in quite as many ways as he knows Jason
believes he is. He is wise enough not to test this belief when
the alternative is simply to allow Jason to... take care of and
for both of them. All of them, now. Bruce knows that Jason
is often cautious with his true emotions, and the depth of
same. He is a performer, to the point where Bruce has
never been sure why he and Alfred aren't closer.
Just the same, when Bruce had informed Jason that the
performance he'd missed because he'd wished to patrol
alone that night (Bruce has never asked him why, and is
nearly positive that he's long since missed his chance -- if
he ever had one) would be the last the Flying Graysons
would ever make, when he'd tried and failed to find any
gentle way to tell Jason that the boy's parents were dead --
There had been a moment (perhaps several), before Jason
had demanded to know where the boy *was*, before
demanding answers about anything and everything else.
Bruce had looked in Jason's eyes and seen himself, seen the
past, smelled it and knew it --
He didn't recoil. Bruce had thought -- he'd thought, perhaps,
this would -- that he could --
Bruce has only ever desired more from Jason, of him and for
him and from him.
Bruce had told him of the counselors who were with the boy
at the time, of the ones who would gladly follow the circus,
if it became necessary to do so. Bruce had known that Jason
knew, even without Bruce's confirmation, that neither the
boy nor the circus would ever want, and Bruce had known
that Jason knew that Batman and Robin would find the
man or men who had done this.
And Jason had not -- Jason had nodded, quick and sure and
perhaps even satisfied.
And Bruce had, once Batman and Robin had destroyed
Zucco's entire operation, went to the boy as Bruce Wayne,
and brought him home.
It had truly been almost precisely like that. He doesn't
remember forethought, or even the excuse of same. He
had just --
("You -- you brought him *here*? What --" "I thought. I
thought you would. I." "Bruce, he's -- God, he barely even
Jason had looked at Bruce, and *into* him, in that way no
one -- no *person* -- he has ever known -- not even Leslie
or Alfred -- has ever managed. There was never any
question within himself of disallowing Jason's examination.
There was never even the question of doing such a thing.
He had waited through it, he had -- he had *endured*.
Jason had not said another word and, ultimately, he had
not needed to. Bruce had no -- he has always been aware
that it didn't require any large shift of perception to view
his feelings for Jason -- all of them -- as inappropriate,
criminal and weak, and --
Bruce had not brought the boy home for that. There is --
there couldn't ever be anyone else who --
Just the same, there are no truly reasonable or complete
explanations for why he had done what he'd done, why he
hadn't been able to leave 'well enough' alone.
And, eventually, Jason had gone to the boy -- as Bruce
perhaps (*perhaps*) had known he would -- and Bruce
began to breathe again.
After that, Bruce was patient -- it wasn't difficult -- and, by
the time Bruce went to the boy -- to *Dick* -- himself, he
knew that Jason had no suspicions of him.
The boy had thanked Bruce for everything without looking
at him, and Bruce had spoken his name, and then... then he
*did* look, and it was. It was terrible.
It was terrible, and vertiginous, and, to this day, Bruce is
not sure he had managed to excuse himself with anything
resembling the grace Alfred had painstakingly taught him,
much less with actual language.
Since then, Bruce has listened, now and again, to Jason
talking with the boy. To the best of his knowledge, they
don't speak of him very much at all. Dick is unfailingly
polite, and never...
It did not take long for Bruce to realize that it was easier to
be near Dick when Bruce was in the cape and cowl, when
he was --
Bruce neither expected nor wanted Jason to ease things
between himself and the boy. Dick is not -- he is not here
for him. Bruce is not what Dick is here *for* -- and so there
is no sense of relief inherent to the knowledge that, even
now, he is suiting up for another night as Robin.
On the street, Dick is Gold, as Jason is Green, and this is
where rightness and relief is achieved. The codenames, he
knows, are far more for convenience than anything else for
both Jason and the boy. To themselves, they are Robin.
It has never seemed correct for Jason to be anything but
himself, vibrant and alive and as insurmountable as a
season. And, of course...
Of course he would yearn toward brightness as much as
Bruce does, himself. Of course he can reach that much
Bruce waits, as he always does now, until after he can hear
them moving toward the cars and the bikes. Just the same,
he does not wait so long that he can't see the way the boy
looks to Jason, the way he smiles, and drinks in every touch,
every glance in the moments before Bruce tells them it's
The boy --
Dick is just like him, after all.
Second-Person vs. Third-Person Limited
1. So, originally this snippet was written in second-person. I
probably would've kept it that way -- I love second person
so long as it's done well, and I think I did it well in this
story's draft -- but I've posted rather a lot of second person
lately, and I'm well aware that many, many readers hate it
(There's also something of a stigma attached to it --
'pretension sans talent' -- that I -- understandably, I think --
want to avoid as much as possible.)
In any event, I figured the editing process would be
annoying and full of little slip-ups (I'm sure I missed a 'you'
or two), but I didn't expect it to feel… creepy. Yes, there
*are* differences between how I go about writing second-
person and how I write third-person-limited which have
nothing to do with pronouns and everything to do with…
hmm. Perhaps intimacy?
One of the reasons I *enjoy* writing second-person is
because the form almost demands a greater degree of
intimacy with the POV character than would otherwise be
necessary or even desired. In order to (theoretically) allow
the audience to roll with the idea/conceit that *they* are
doing and thinking the things the character is, the writer
must, I think, make those thoughts and actions as
*immediate* as possible.
They have to be tangible for the reader -- even more than
they usually are -- otherwise, the second person squick so
many readers have will toss those readers right out. (I think
I managed this best with Though
First question: Do you agree with that idea? Can you point
me to some examples of second-person POV fiction in which
the writer seemed to be trying for *less* intimacy than
what's inherent to third-person-limited POV fiction *and*
you felt the story worked? (Whether or not you liked it --
I'm looking for that ever difficult-to-define 'objective' quality,
Anyway, in terms of this story -- well, that's part of it right
there. This is a *snippet*. It's short, and to the point about
as much as I *ever* manage when Bruce is on center-stage.
I wouldn't have been *able* to keep it this short if I'd
started out in third-person-limited, and, in fact, the snippet
gained a little (not much, but still) weight in its transition
from second to third.
If I'd *started* writing it in third-person limited, I strongly
suspect the eventual piece would've been -- at least -- twice
as long. I find second-person to be fabulously useful in
terms of keeping things *short*. If there are a couple of
points I want to make about a character or dynamic, but
don't feel *up* to writing a story -- or novella… well,
person can have a siren call.
Second question: I *know* there are novellas and novels
out there written in second-person. In terms of *fan*-fiction,
what are they, which are your favorites, and why? Do you
feel that the POV in these works 'taxed your stamina' at all?
Finally, a little more on how it *felt* to change the structure
of this snippet:
Creepy. Creepy, creepy, *creepy*. I'm not sure why that is,
honestly, though I suspect it comes down to the fact that,
when I'm writing Bruce in third-person limited, the man
tends to express himself in oblique, tangential, euphemistic,
and all-around *annoying* ways. He goes *on* with his bad
self. He could out-filibuster Melville. He's a *gigantic* drama
queen, and he's Bruce.
In order to get to the heart(s) of the matter(s) in question, I
have to *work* for it, and, in terms of third-person limited,
work = verbiage.
In second-person… well, the feeling is closer to writing from
within the character than it is (for me, anyway) to having a
ring-side seat *to* the character's mental and emotional
processes. From within, there's no real need to *let* Bruce
(or any other character) talk around his thoughts and
emotions, and *every* real need to avoid letting Bruce do
of the kind.
Therefore, altering the POV of this story felt like nothing less
than first squatting in Bruce's brain, and then pulling in some
other, grabbier me in from the audience. I felt like an
invader, like the world's most ubiquitous house-guest, like --
I don't know.
I recognize that this is mostly me being a very *neurotic*
writer, but, well… here's one of the passages which made
me twitch a bit to alter:
You had looked in his eyes and seen yourself, seen the
past, smelled it and knew it --
You didn't recoil. You thought -- you thought, perhaps, this
would -- that you could --
You've only ever desired more from Jason, of him and for him
and from him.
Bruce had looked in Jason's eyes and seen himself, seen
the past, smelled it and knew it --
He didn't recoil. Bruce had thought -- he'd thought, perhaps,
this would -- that he could --
Bruce has only ever desired more from Jason, of him and
for him and from him.
Chances are, they don't seem very different to anyone but
myself. Certainly, I doubt that the edited version seems as
creepy to many of you reading as it did to *me*. Just the
same… it really wouldn't have come *out* like that if,
I'd started out with third-person limited. It might've been
more like (in first draft, I'm just riffing, etc., etc.):
Bruce had found himself looking into Jason's eyes and
he had seen --
He'd seen himself, and a part of himself which he knows,
now, he will never be able to leave in the past where it --
Would Jason think it belonged in the past? Bruce isn't sure,
and while he aspires (always) to do more, to *be* more --
While there's nothing he wants more, sometimes, than to be
a man who Jason didn't consider hopelessly naïve, or simply
Look, I've already half-forgotten what the original point in
that passage was. *laughs* Chances are, I'd still have found
a way to get there, but, as you can see, it would've taken a
lot more than four sentences and sentence-fragments, and a
*lot* more Bruce-ian verbal misdirection. And so --
Third question: Does this make *any* sense to you? Have
you ever felt the need to change a POV from one style to
another? Did it make the story feel different for you? Show