Shadow of the Bat
by Te
August 9, 2003

Disclaimers: They're not mine. Not even close to mine.

Spoilers: None, really.

Summary: What didn't happen.

Ratings Note/Warnings: NC-17. Contains content that
some readers may find disturbing. I'm *serious*.

Author's Note: Inspired by Benway. Not his fault. More
notes at the end.

Acknowledgments: To Deb, who still loves me, even
though I'm dirty and awful and wrote this.

Feedback: Um... sure?


He doesn't like to cry.

Bruce has cried once in his life (that he remembers), and
he supposes that it was fitting. Surrounded by the rich
and powerful and those who merely wanted to be seen,
staring down at two coffins gleaming mellowly in the rain.

He's seen the pictures. People love the pictures, and
feel things when they see them... he doesn't quite have
the words for it. It's all right.

He knows he will one day.

Alfred is silent as he works, brushing on the antiseptic
with a scrap of gauze. He's thorough, and his quiet is a
kind of subtle accusation.

Where have you been, what have you done, why have
 you... and so on.

Bruce smiles behind his face, a look he's been practicing
for some time now. It isn't easy to keep secrets from his
guardian, but he's getting better at it.

The curious hole behind the old grandfather clock for one.
Much, much too large to have been made (solely) by
vermin, and there had been old footprints on the long
rocky path down. Nearly obliterated by dust, but footprints
just the same.

In the cave proper, there hadn't been much, but it had
been telling.

An old medical table covered in bat guano. Rusting scalpels
and tongs and the like. Leather stirrups crumbling with

Bruce is fifteen years old, but he isn't naive. Some things
hadn't always been legal.

His father had been rich, but not stupid.

There was a chasm beyond the large space, at the opposite
end from the small and overgrown exit, and sometimes
Bruce sat at the edge and imagined he could smell... things.
Old blood and shame.

Bruce knows all about shame.

Alfred finishes with the bandage on his knee and slides a
slow, spotted hand up his thigh and under his shorts. As
always, he never quite meets Bruce's eyes, but the touch
is light. Reverent.

"You shouldn't do such injury to yourself, Master Bruce."

He knows what he's supposed to do. "I'll try to be more
careful, Alfred. I don't know *what* got into me."

A carefully cynical humph, aimed somewhere past his left
shoulder. "It's in the nature of young men to be incautious.
To be *bad*."

Fingers tickle at his sac, and Bruce feels himself getting
hard. Lets his head fall back and moans out his response:
"You're right, Alfred. You're... oh God --"


He doesn't use his freedom profligately. Most of the time,
when he leaves, he does so by the front door, Alfred
watching from the shadows.

It's just that it's *summer*, and he's home from school,
and home doesn't quite feel... *right* anymore. That
huge old house is so big, so dark, so *empty*, and

Gotham is nothing like a jewel, but it shines and it
beckons, and Alfred goes to sleep pretty early,
complaining desultorily of the heat.

It's cool in the cave, but Bruce doesn't spend much
time, dusting off the few possessions he's brought
down casually and slipping out the back, pushing
vegetation over the exit to cover his escape.

And then it's the easiest thing in the world to run down
and down to the main road, call himself a cab from the
gas station pay phone, and...

God, Gotham!

He'd forgotten how big it all was, how *different*
without a guardian or a troop of bored prep school boys.
Last summer, he hadn't really gotten a chance to
explore. There had been bars, and a few really
*enlightening* fights -- he spends a lot of time working
out these days -- but now...

Bruce wants something different.

He has the cabbie drop him off by the wharf, and heads
into the city proper (for what else could really be the city?),
asking directions twice. Once, he gets laughed at. Once,
he gets... looked at.

It's something like the gleam in Alfred's eyes at *those*
times, and it makes him stand straighter in response.

The man smiles at him like the shine on an oil slick and
tells him where to go.

The women are... disappointing.

Older than he thought they would be, than certain books
had led him to believe. Their clothes are tacky, shiny and
frayed and ugly.

But one of them is something to look at, dark hair cropped
short, cheekbones sharp with what was probably hunger,
but looked a lot more romantic, and eyes alive with
something like intelligence.

She hooks a finger into the collar of his shirt and asks
him what he wants.

He shows his cash -- not all of it, that's hidden as
carefully as he can -- and tells her he wants a room.

"Pretty little rich boy," she says, and leads him into a
tenement that looks like it's one good push from falling
over, and in one of the yellow-lighted rooms strips

She's all bone and lean muscle, pale and scarred here
and there.

She sucks him off while he stands there staring, and he
doesn't last long at all.

He frowns when she reaches for the money.

"I paid for the whole night," he says in his toughest voice,
and smiles inside when it makes her freeze.

Slump like something tired and... beaten.

There's a flash behind his eyes that's nothing like light.

She fights and yells when he slaps her ass for the first
time, but it's the work of a moment to push her face
into a pillow. She's tight and hot and the red shows on
her skin like artwork.

It's almost enough.


School is boring. School is *always* boring, but these
days... something about the sanitized halls and sanitized
boys makes his knuckles itch. They're not far out of
Gotham, but they might as well be light years away. One
more year of this. Christ.

Lex sidles up beside him in a swirl of expensive cologne
and carefully cultivated disarray. His bald head is a
beacon for any number of things, but the Luthors are
almost as rich as he is.

It's not like money doesn't buy everything important.

"You're looking bitchier than usual, Mr. Wayne."

"Fuck off, Lex, I'm not in the mood."

Hand on his ass, quick and firm. "What if I am?"

For a moment, he thinks of punching the guy, but Lex
would just see it as a victory. In his mind's eye, Lex is
sprawled against the wall, blood trickling out of a glittery
little smirk. He forces himself to breathe, and plasters on
his best smile. "I don't know. Is it true you're hairless

Lex's face cracks beneath the skin like tectonic shift, but
he never takes his eyes off Bruce. "Why don't you come
and find out?"

And he walks off, clearly heading back to the dorms.

Clearly expecting Bruce not to follow. He thinks about it
for a moment, but the only thing he has scheduled for
that afternoon is Chemistry, and some idiot in charge
had decided to make the class ninety percent theory.

Boring, boring, boring.

He catches up to Lex at the door of his room and lays
a hand over the other boy's when he reaches for the

"Bruce. I didn't think --"

He trails off into a hiss when Bruce sucks a kiss onto the
back of his neck and then they're tripping and tumbling
into the half-neat, half-messy room. Prep school

Lex leads him to the neat side and spins around. Kisses
him hard. Kisses him with those blue-grey eyes open and
closer to angry than turned on.

They don't take off all their clothes, but they take off

He really is hairless everywhere.

Bruce doesn't let him go until dinnertime.


School is boring. He hates repeating himself, but school is
really, sincerely, ridiculously boring.

Except for Lex, who's too interesting for his own good.

They've fucked everywhere generations of schoolboys
have found to fuck, and probably a few places they hadn't.

Tonight, they're back in Bruce's room -- a single, naturally,
Alfred takes care of those things -- and supposedly studying.

Lex hasn't looked at his book for at least five minutes. He's
been looking at Bruce for at least three.

Bruce doesn't have to turn around to know that -- he can
feel it like an itch between his shoulder blades. He ignores
it as best he can.

"You know, you're really quite a fascinating young man,
Mr. Wayne."

Why, he doesn't ask. "You've been reading Wilde again."

"A well-read man is a well-bred man. Besides, it's true."

"We have a test tomorrow."

"Like you care."

Bruce has been either highest in his class or close to it
since he's been here. But it's true. He really doesn't
give a shit. None of it matters. Nothing but getting back
to Gotham, where he belongs. Not that anyone should
know that. He thinks about the bruises Lex is hiding
beneath his uniform and breathes a little easier. "What
are you talking about?" he asks, as casually as possible.

An amused sound, and he can *feel* Lex smirking.
"What I mean is that you don't *fit*, Bruce. You're smart
but you're not a nerd. You're a great athlete, but you're
not a jock. You smoke more weed than the dealers and
you're not a stoner. You're queer as a three-dollar bill --"

He can feel his eyes twitch. "Did you have a point, or
were you just going to extol my fucking virtues?"

"Touchy. My point is this: you've got a freaky little secret
in that pretty head and I want to know what it is."

Bruce closes his eyes for a moment. Just a moment.
"You're old enough for your wants not to hurt you."

"Is that what Alfred says? Catchy. Seriously, though,
Bruce, what *is* it? What's pushing you? What do you w

"I *want* you to shut the fuck up, Lex."

"Make me."

And when he looks over his shoulder the books are
stacked neatly on the window seat, and Lex is sprawled
like an invitation over his bed, collar undone, tie dangling
from one pale, long-fingered hand.

"Of course, if you really *want* to study --"

It's easy to push him down, easy to straddle him, and Lex
is laughing, but it doesn't last when he gets his cock in
that pretty, scarred mouth.

Like always, Lex keeps his eyes wide open. Watching

It would be better if he had hair for Bruce to grab, but it's
enough to stroke that ridiculously smooth skin, to push
his thumbs against the softness and fuck his way, God, in.



Summer, finally, and even the *air* is better here.

Choked with exhaust, hazy with humidity. You can look up,
but you can't really see the sky. It makes Bruce think of
London, what it must have been like at the heart of the
Industrial Revolution, all black and deadly to live in.

He's on the streets barely an hour after he gets his things
situated, and if Alfred seems twitchier than usual, more
*suspicious* than usual, then Bruce really doesn't care.

He bounces in the back of the cab on the way to the
docks, and jumps out before the thing even stops, ready
for the city, for *life*.

He gets a few shots of tequila in the dingiest bar he can
find, the oily taste just another part of what makes it all
*right*, and then he heads for Sugar street. He can't find
any of his usual girls, but it's okay.

Part of the fun is the hunt.

The women smile at him, but he doesn't want that. Too
old. Too raddled. And part of him thinks he should *want*
that -- what could be better than someone who has the
city etched right into their skin? But they really aren't
what he wants. They're just too... something.

They make him think of his mother somehow, though none
of them could ever look as good -- *be* as good as she

Something about how their eyes say they know everything
there is to know, even though most of them can barely
read. It's just a little too much.

He spends an hour cruising, and that's fine, but then he
spends *another* hour, and it's getting much too late.

Fewer people, more people he doesn't want anything to
do with, gym-time or no.

But he's been half-hard for *hours* and he *needs* this.
Something to wash the taste of school out of his mouth,
and the look in Lex's eyes when he wrapped his hands
around his skinny neck. Something *real*.

"Can't find what you're looking for?"

The voice is gravely, a smoker's rasp without the cough.
Normally, he'd ignore it, but... "No. What can *you* do
about it?"

The man smiles, showing off bad teeth and a tongue that
licks across them like Bruce is a special treat. "Not
everything on Sugar is out for just *anyone* to see, kid.
You sure you're up for it?"

And Bruce isn't an idiot. He knows the man is trying to
dare him into something stupid, but... there's no one
around. Not even a hint of backup for the guy, and Bruce
knows he can take him if anything happens. And he's...
hungry. "Don't fuck with me. What have you got?"

And the man smiles again and heads down one of the
alleys, looking back once over his shoulder to make sure
Bruce is following.

He does, but he hangs back a little and keeps his eyes
open. His caution makes the man laugh, and Bruce thinks
about hitting him, thinks about heading back to the bars
he knows will be open late, but in the end he keeps

At a door half-hidden among cardboard boxes and
garbage, the man gives a stupidly complex little knock. It
swings open, and he looks over his shoulder again for
Bruce. "C'mon, kid. You're not gonna believe *this*..."

He hangs back just a little longer, even as the man
disappears inside, but then he hears it. A moan.

A brothel. Right, just what he needs. The prices were
always higher and so were the risks. You just couldn't
*do* everything you wanted to when you knew there
was someone waiting behind the door.

But, whatever. He needs to get laid.

Bruce sighs to himself and walks in.

For a long moment, he's confused. There's no one here
but children, the oldest of whom can't be more than

But then it sinks in. None of them are wearing much of
anything at all. And the man has his hand on the shoulder
of one of them -- a skinny dark-haired thing with messy
hair and big eyes that could've been male or female.

He hears himself swallow and the man smiles and pushes
the kid at him.

"What do you want, mister?" the kid asks in a voice cracking
with puberty. The boy.

He backs up a step, knowing the look on his face is
horrible, way too telling, and the kid just stands there.

"We've seen your face around here before, kid. Every
summer, like clockwork. We know you like 'em young.
Maybe a little *too* young, eh?" The man laughs so hard
Bruce thinks he'll rupture something.

The kid keeps looking at him, eyes bright with nothing
but reflected light. There's a bit of grime on his chin. His
mouth looks painted and Bruce wants. He wants --

He bolts, running for the brighter streets as fast as he can,
swallowing back his gorge until he can't anymore.

He vomits against a wall and runs from the stench and
doesn't think and doesn't think and doesn't think at all
until he walks into the mansion. And realizes his mistake --
he's used the front door.

Alfred stands in the hall like a parody of the soldier, chin
tilted up just so and eyes blank.

"You really should be more careful, Master Bruce. Cab
drivers can be bought."


"Did you really think no one would know about your
little... excursions? Really, Master Bruce, what *would*
your parents say?"

And it strikes him dumb for long moments. Alfred, *Alfred*
saying that, after what Bruce had seen. Alfred standing
there like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, like they both
didn't know...

Alfred tilts his head at him, like some weird balding bird.
Like a proper English vulture. "Are you ill?"

Flash behind his eyes and he runs for the man, throwing
himself at him and clutching at his clothes and he can
hear himself yelling, but the words don't make any sense.
All whys and don'ts and curses that don't mean anything,
and he falls to his knees, sobbing without tears.

He doesn't like to cry.

Alfred strokes his hair softly, like he's a child, like he's
always done, and Bruce holds on.

And when Alfred opens his pants and tilts Bruce's head up,
it's just as awful and sickening and fucked up as it always
was, but it's just what he needs.

After, he wipes Bruce's mouth with a pristine handkerchief.
"Really, Master Bruce, if you do insist on sowing your
wild oats so very commonly, you might at least consider a
disguise of some sort."

Bruce nods against the man's thigh. Alfred always did have
good ideas.


Bruce knocks the last of the men onto the pile of unconscious
and wounded and steps back into the shadows. There's
something immensely freeing about the mask, about all the
black, like he can do anything at all.

And he can.

The city hides him and holds him like he's one of its own,
and he knows he is.

It had been strange at first, of course, like he was some
psycho who didn't know Halloween was only one day a
year, but... but.

He remembers the first time he'd gone to his old haunts
in the outfit, the men who had peeled away from the wall
full of booze and mockery. It could've ended there, but
they had been drunk, and he had been strong.

And it could've ended *there*, with the bodies bleeding
on the concrete, but two girls had peeled themselves
away from the wall and looked at him with fear and...
and *gratitude*.

"I don't know who you are, Mister, but *thanks*. Jimmy
is a real prick, you know?"

"Yeah," the other one said, and kicked one of the men,
stumbling on her impractically high heels.

"Heh," said the first one, sliding a hand up the slippery
spandex covering his chest and smiling up at him
through painted lashes. "My hero."

He had them right there, up against the wall, one after
the other, and he thinks maybe it could have ended
*there*, even, but the one he was fucking had
screamed and stared over his shoulder, and he'd spun
around, dick swinging in the breeze, and struck without

There'd been a crack, and the man had fallen like a tree,
and Bruce remembers staring down into the man's face,
at the weirdly *crushed* cast to his nose, at the eyes.

He remembers the way the man's eyes had glazed over,
visible even in the uncertain light.

He remembers the way the girls had gasped, and the
sound of the smaller one as she cried.

He remembers being almost too hard to tuck himself
away, and how it had just seemed *right* to finish the

After, the girls had helped him shove the men into a
Dumpster, swearing that they'd never tell, that they
knew the score, that they'd... be good.

And he'd remembered looking up at Alfred when he
seemed like the tallest man in the world, and promising
to be a good boy even as his lips split and bled.

And after that, it couldn't have ended at all.

He likes the way the papers put it. Well, some of the
papers. He could live without the ones that called him
"Batman," and what had ever possessed him to get a
mask with ears?

Well, he'd been young, and what was done, was

He knows there are some cops that want to bring him
in, that talk about the dangers of vigilantism, but most
of them -- the ones on the *street* -- wouldn't touch
him save to shake his hand.

And besides, he's gotten a lot better at hiding the
bodies over the years.

No, the night is his, and all of its treasures.

Men to pound into the dirt -- and he's gotten better at
that, too -- and girls to fuck. Boys to fuck.

Whatever he wants. There's always an open door, and
no one ever tries to get under the mask.

Freedom, and a cave to come back to with all the
comforts he needs.

It's more than a little sick the way Alfred has taken to it.

Always ready with some new edition to the suit, some
nasty little trick for the belt. He has to wonder where
Alfred learned all of this, but then, you can get almost
anything out of a good book.

And it's all so *useful*.

Alfred doesn't touch him much anymore, but he
supposes that's part of getting older.

He likes to listen, instead.

Bruce likes to talk.

It's a good life.


He hasn't been back to Sugar in a long time -- it's gotten
a lot quieter since he's been doing his thing, but it's
always good to check back. Keep an eye on things.

And tonight... tonight it's even better than good.

He watches from atop a crumbling gargoyle as the boy
fights. He's a scrappy little thing, really. All kicks and
punches and sharp little grunts when he gets hit.

It can't last, though.

A better class of pimp has moved in since he's taken
care of the trash, and the men know what they're
doing. They adjust quickly to the boy's size and speed.

Bruce waits until they start having fun before he leaps

A few carefully aimed blows and he has them down.
Picks up the leader and sets his arm around the man's
throat, covering his mouth when he moans too loud.

The boy's eyes are wide, and bright with unshed tears.
He wants to run his tongue over the rising bruises.
He holds the man a little tighter instead. "What'd he do
to you, kid?" he says in his avenger voice.

"My... my parents. He hurt my parents and now they're
not moving and there's a smell and --"

Dark wood and picturesque rain. Memories. He shakes
them off. "Yeah? What should I do to him?"

The boy only hesitates for a moment. "Kill him!"

The man's neck snaps with a echoing crack. "And the

The boy looks shocked. Swallows visibly. "I... I don't

Bruce smiles behind his mask and takes care of them,
too. Drags them to the stinking water and tosses them
in, one at a time. He can feel the boy's gaze.

He crouches down in front of the kid and studies him.
Shaking, but trying to hide it. Thin beneath the grime
and bruises, and the bones beneath his face are as
fine as a bird's.

He cups the boy's cheek gently, but firmly.

"What... what are you gonna do now, Mister?"

Sweetness like a taste on the air, and Bruce indulges
himself with a slow, soft stroke over the boy's cheekbone.
"You're coming home with me."

The boy swallows again and nods.

As if he really had a choice.


Notes: See, once upon a time people used to talk a lot
about how Professor Xavier was a cult leader. And then
Dr. Benway wrote a little story called X-Manson, where
Xavier really *was* a cult leader. It was a very, very
good story. The stuff which nightmares are made on.

So then I started thinking about Batman. About the
things people -- people like me -- said about Batman.
And I wrote this story.

Yes, I'm in therapy.

No, I don't live near you.