Wednesday, June 29, 2005

173. Batcomputer database entry excerpts

NAME: Gustavus, Carl
ALIASES: Unknown
CURRENT WHEREABOUTS: Piedmont Terrace, Gotham City
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: height/6'2" weight 195 lbs eyes/light blue hair/black (balding)
HISTORY: Gustavus has kept a low profile since moving to Gotham in 1984. A Yale graduate with advanced degrees in psychology and religious studies, he is independently wealthy. He operates a private business with highly exclusive clientele, the exact purpose of which remains a closely guarded secret.

PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILE: Gustavus possesses imposing powers of intimidation and manipulation.


RISK ASSESSMENT: There is no evidence to suggest that Gustavus is a criminal or in any way dangerous, but something about him remains off-putting.

NOTES: Worthy of closer study.

Monday, June 27, 2005

172. The omniscient narrator

Three and a half years had passed since that brief encounter, but Bruce had often revisited the memory--and the business card he'd been handed.

Master of Men
Explorer of the Unknown
Safe * Sane * Consensual
All encounters discreet.

These words were followed by a phone number. He'd initially surmised, once he finally read the text, that this man must be a prostitute of some sort, even if nothing about Gustavus's behavior in person had suggested as much. Early on, he'd briefly toyed with the idea of investigating the case as Batman, but something held him back--most likely an unstated fear of his true motivation. Still, he had begun a file on Gustavus, carefully filling in whatever details he was able to glean over the next several years. Working on the file had intrigued him in a way most of his cases did not. He had never been able to identify what was so different about this one, but that was changing fast.

Everything was changing, it seemed, in this new phase of his life. Freed of the burden of being Batman, Bruce was beginning to see things in a different light. Two truths began to assert themselves as undeniable: that he had strong feelings, sexual feelings, for other men, and that what he wanted from these men was something dark. Something unmentionable. Something unimaginable.

Or perhaps he had imagined it--had experienced it, even, at the hands of Dr. Strange. He remembered the cage, the collar, the unending torment. And--to his great embarassment--he found himself growing erect every time he'd attempted to reconstruct what had happened during those awful weeks of confinement.

In his mind, the face and voice of Carl Gustavus took the place of those of Hugo Strange. Perhaps this man held some sort of key to the transformations Bruce had undergone. There was no logical connection between the two--one was a demented psychiatrist, the other a brief encounter at a party years before--but there was something about that encounter that convinced Bruce to follow his instincts.

There had been times during his crimefighting career that Batman had conducted missions as Bruce Wayne: the guise came in handy when investigating certain situations and individuals. But this was different. "Batman" was gone now, perhaps for good. All he had left was the shell of an identity. He could no longer pretend to himself that his actions had anything to do with fighting crime. He was pursuing demons, all right, but he was beginning to realize that they were demons of his own design.

He found himself punching at the keys on his phone, dialing a number he had learned by heart although he'd never used it. He heard a dial tone, and then a man's voice saying, "Hello."

"Gustavus? Bruce Wayne here."

"About fucking TIME, boy."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

171. The omniscient narrator (flashback: February 2003)

Bruce had only met the man once, but the encounter had left an indelible mark.

It was at a cocktail party in the early months of 2003 when a mutual friend introduced the wealthy socialite to a well-built, eerily self-confident individual with close-cropped hair and piercing eyes. At the time, Bruce did not and could not admit to himself how attractive he found the man; he simply thought of him as "intriguing."

Their conversation began with an exchange of shallow repartee. Bruce was playing his carefully cultivated role of jaded playboy to the hilt, and years of experience had taught him the art of evasion. But after a few moments of idle chatter, his sparring partner changed tone abruptly.

"Let's cut the bullshit, Mr. Wayne. Life is too short to fuck around. You're a man with secrets. You're haunted by them. I could tell that the minute you shook my hand. The way you avoid eye contact, the little linguistic games you want to play--you're hiding something. Not just from me and everybody else here, but from yourself.

"I don't expect you to tell me what it is. For christ's sake, I'm a total stranger. But I think you want something you're not letting yourself have, and sooner or later that can get very, very frustrating. Frustration has a way of building up inside a man. If he's not careful, it can tear him apart."

The man stared straight at Bruce, who suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a treatment he'd often dished out as Batman. Under the circumstances--locked, for the moment, into the public role of Bruce Wayne--he did not have the option of fighting fire with fire. He decided to take a different tack. It felt odd, though not entirely unpleasant, to be caught off guard. There was something about this stranger he found ... intimidating? Tantalizing? Intoxicating? Bruce realized his breath was growing shallow, his throat a little dry.

He tried to lighten the mood by changing the subject. "And what is it you do for a living, Mister... uh..."

"Gustavus. Carl Gustavus," the man replied. "I work with men. I shape them. I train them. I give them..."

"--what they want?" Bruce added, mocking the gravity of his new acquaintance's tone.

"What they need," Gustavus corrected.

Wayne had no idea what any of this meant, but he was fascinated all the same.

Gustavus continued. "You look like the kind of man who needs what I have to offer," he said, handing Bruce a business card.

Master detective though he might be, Wayne did not sense the clear flirtation in the man's tone. Lacking any frame of reference for seduction of this sort, he simply accepted the card and tucked it in a pocket of his dinner jacket without looking at it, then glanced at his watch.

"I'm sorry, I have to go..." he said.

"It's okay, little man," Gustavus replied in a way that made it difficult to tell whether he was merely teasing or genuinely hostile. "Run away if you must. When you're ready, you'll give me a call. You know how to reach me. And we both know you want to."

Friday, June 24, 2005

170. Bruce Wayne/Batman

Sooner or later I must face the unavoidable truth of what I have become: I am a slave with no Master.

I can never undo what happened. Hugo Strange broke me. He took me apart, one piece at a time, and rebuilt me according to his own wishes. Somehow, in a moment of inexplicable and fleeting strength, I managed to escape his clutches--but I cannot deny the feelings he has unleashed in me. He knew things about me that no one else could ever know. Every single thing he did to me and for me was something I have wanted my entire life. I realize now that I assumed the role of the Batman not to avenge a childhood tragedy but to surrender to it. My goal is not to fight crime, it is to be fought--and to be beaten.

Hugo Strange was right. He was my savior. I am nothing without him.

NO. NO. NO! I cannot allow myself to think this way. He did something to me while I was in captivity--the barrage of drugs and tortures he inflicted upon me have clouded my mind. I thought I could shake it by leaving, but it's no use. I can't be who I was, I can't be who I always meant to be, until I can get his poison out of my mind...

... and yet I am addicted to that poison now. It feeds me, nourishes me, keeps me alive.

I wish he was here right now to take me in his arms and send me to the ground and punish me for attempting to disobey him. Everything was so much simpler when I lived in that cage.

I still live there, I realize now--it's just that the bars are harder to see. I am like a dog waiting for his owner to return, only I know that can never happen again.

I need help. And I think I know where to turn.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

169. The omniscient narrator

In the dream, everything is back to normal.

He's in his suit again. It's like he's never taken it off. Like it's a second skin, a first home, a hiding place, the secret he shares with the world. The mask fits so snugly over his face that he can't imagine life without it.

He's in the cage again, too. The one Strange made for him. Only he's not so sure it's Strange outside anymore. Could be any of his endlessly multiplying enemies: Joker, Riddler, Tempest, anyone at all.

He's a prisoner, shackled and shuttered and unable to move. And he loves it. His dick is rock hard. He wants to jerk himself off but he can't move either of his hands. That realization only makes him harder. Everything he's done thus far has brought him to this point, and he wants to savor every moment.

"Say your name," his unseen captor demands.

He hesitates. He feels something sharp cut into his shoulder--a whip? a blade? impossible to know. But it feels so... good.

"I am Object X," he replies at last. "I am Batman. I am Bruce Wayne. I am ... nothing."

He wakes up to find himself swimming in a sea of cum.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

168. Bruce

I see now that I am lost.
I HAVE lost.
I have failed at everything I set out to do.
I made one bad decision long ago, which led to an entire series of disastrous consequences, which can never be undone.
I destroyed another man's life.
I allowed my own life to be destroyed.
In short, I was weak.

And Batman can never, ever be weak.

In writing that, I feel as if I am drawn to a new decision:

I can never, ever be Batman again.

The thought gives me some sense of relief, as if I am finally free of a burden I have carried far too long.

And yet.

And yet, I cannot imagine what my life would be if I was not Him anymore. "Bruce Wayne" exists solely to make Batman possible. What would I do if I had no such purpose? What would I be?

What will I be?

Monday, June 13, 2005

167. Dick (letter mailed to Wayne Manor)

Dear Bruce,

I can't believe it's been an entire month since the last time I saw you. I think--okay, I know--that I owe you an explanation for my behavior that night, and it's taken me this long to put it into words.

No matter how great a detective you are, you are probably pretty confused by the way I acted, walking out of the house and never coming back. Believe me, I'm pretty fucking confused myself these days, and that's the real reason I left.

My biggest concern for the last month has been that I hurt your feelings. I just want you to know that under other circumstances I would have been the happiest person on the planet when you walked into my bedroom that night. I hope to god you realize that I have wanted to make love with you since the first day I saw you. (Come to think of it, that was not a very good day, either.)

But nothing I do can change the fact that I nearly destroyed your life. (Maybe I did destroy it, since I haven't noticed a single Batman sighting in the news over the last month.) I fucked up, and I fucked up badly. I'm not cut out to be the kind of man you are. You want a crimefighting partner; I want a lover. I don't think I can be both, and you and I now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I suck as a sidekick.

Every horrible thing that has happened to both of us over the last half year--well, for me it started even earlier--has been a direct result of bad choices I made. I'm ashamed of myself, and as much as it tears me apart, I realize that you can't lead the kind of life you were meant to lead with me in the picture.

There's something else. When you kissed me--a kiss I had been waiting for for so long I thought it would never happen--all I could think about was... Dr. Tanhoger. Dr. Strange. Whatever the hell his name is. I know that's the result of all the drugs and the mental conditioning and everything else, but it's still true. I'm doing a lot better with it all now, but there's no guarantee I won't just totally flip out some day and revert to the zombie he turned me into. Even though I realize he was one sick motherfucker, I can't hide from myself the fact that everything he did to me still turns me on. I guess he's dead now, but the image of him haunts me every night. I know I need some kind of help with all this, and that makes it even worse--because the man I trusted with all my secrets (other than you) turned out to use them all against me, so there's no way I'll ever trust another shrink. And I can't talk to anyone else about any of this. A part of me would love to see you again, just to try and make sense of what happened, but I'm so afraid I'll just fuck everything up, all over again.

In case you're wondering, I've been laying low lately. The night I left I just wandered around for a while, then the next morning I went to my old apartment. I was almost positive I wouldn't be able to get in, but then I saw my key still fit the lock--and the place was in such great shape it was like I never left. Like nothing ever happened. I assume that's all Alfred's doing--paying the rent while I was out of commission, collecting the mail, cleaning--so please thank him for me.

And... thank you, Bruce.You are them most generous man I have ever met. You gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. And I blew it. I know you can never forgive me, never trust me, and you probably never want to see me again. And I know it's all my own goddam fault.

I wish everything was different. But it's not.

I love you, Bruce, even if I did a pretty shitty job of showing it. No matter what happens next, I just hope you know that.

Oh god, I miss you.